Lydia Thompson, the founding member of the original burlesque troupe, The British Blondes
Lydia Thompson, the founding member of the original burlesque troupe, The British Blondes


In The Beginning


Burlesque is a genre of variety performance art show. Derived from elements of Victorian burlesque, music hall and minstrel shows, burlesque shows in America became popular in the 1860s and evolved to feature ribald comedy (lewd jokes) and female striptease. By the early 20th century, burlesque in America was presented as a populist blend of satire, performance art, music hall, and adult entertainment, featuring striptease and broad comedy acts.[1] The word ‘burlesque’ first appears in a title in Francesco Berni’s Opere Burlesche of the early 16th century. For a time, burlesque verses were known as poesie bernesca in his honour. In more recent times, burlesque true to its literary origins is still performed in revues and sketches.[8]
Burlesque in the United States is believed to have begun in New York during the 1860s with the formation of a British burlesque troupe called The British Blondes.[13][14][15][16]  It was popularized by the visiting British burlesque troupe and founding member Lydia Thompson in the beginning of 1868. [32] During this time feminists and activists were politically active in the fight for abolition and suffrage. Women were beginning to use more publicly available spaces for all different types of performances and demonstrations. The group established burlesque as a mostly female dominated performance as well as performances including a strip tease and a narrative.[17]





Humez, Nick. “Burlesque” . St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast, Gale Virtual Reference Library, accessed February 16, 2011

“History of Burlesque Part I”

“Streetwings Burlesque History Archives: Lydia Thompson”.

“Lydia Thompson, the “Father of All Drag Kings”?” .  August 26, 2014.

“Burlesque Show”.  Encyclopedia Britannica. 

Fredric Woodbridge Wilson: “Burlesque”, Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed December 04, 2008)

Hoffos, Signe and Moulder, Bob. “Desperately Seeking Lydia” and “Appreciating Lydia”, Archived 2011-05-13 at the Wayback Machine The Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery Magazine, Vol. 43, Autumn 2006, pp. 1–7

Siebler, Kay (2015). “What’s so Feminist about Garters and Bustiers? Neo-Burlesque as Post-feminist Sexual Liberation”. Journal of Gender Studies. 24 (5): 561–573.