Edith Wilson Papers
Highly regarded as a blues singer and vaudeville performer by the 1920s, Edith Wilson went on to perform on radio, television, and as a spokeswoman for the Quaker Oats Company. Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1896, she came to Chicago first in 1921 to perform in local cabarets and left to pursue a stage career in New York and Europe. She joined national and international tours as a vaudeville performer but it was her blues number, "He May Be Your Man (But He Comes to See Me Sometimes)," that made her most well known. Following World War II, Wilson was hired by the Quaker Oats Company to portray the character of Aunt Jemima on television, radio, and at fundraising events nationwide. Civil Rights groups protested this portrayal and Quaker Oats eventually ended local performances, and Wilson's employment, in the mid-1960s. Until her death in 1981, Wilson devoted herself to professional and charitable activities for black musicians and actors, including Chicago's Theatrical Cheer Club.
The Edith Wilson Papers document this long and varied career, including her work as a professional musician, her employment with Quaker Oats, and her charitable work on behalf of musicians at the end of her life. The papers consist of manuscripts, personal correspondence, some programs, serials, and clippings, and photographs. Material related to her employment with Quaker Oats is arranged separately and includes correspondence, memorabilia, and financial information.