May de Sousa

May Alvos de Sousa (November 6, 1884[1] – August 8, 1948[2]) was an American singer and a Broadway actress.[3]


De Sousa was the daughter of a Chicago police detective,[1] John De Sousa (born 1856 died 1941), and his wife, Carrie (1861—1910). She had a younger sibling, Marvin De Sousa (1891—1921).[1][4]

She came to fame in 1898 as the singer of "Dear Midnight of Love", a ballad by Bathhouse John Coughlin.[5]

May attracted such attention that at end of her first full season in 1901, whilst still only a teenager, she was engaged by Frank L. Perley as one of the principals for his touring company for the musical comedy The Chaperons. With thirty four speaking and singing roles and a chorus of sixty it was said to be the largest musical organization so far seen in America. Next she was engaged as understudy for the great Alice Nielson in San Francisco and in 1902 had the opportunity to accompany her to London but demurred on that occasion due to a fear of the sea crossing. Instead she joined the cast of the hugely popular and long-running operatic fantasy The Storks. In April 1904, May was engaged to replace Bessie Wynne in the role of 'Sir Daily' in The Wizard of Oz and in September of that year followed that same actress in Babes in Toyland. By now she was an established success and much in demand.

She went to London after all, but as a star in her own right, and first appeared on the London Stage as 'Cinderella' at Drury Lane. Other London successes followed, including Castles in Spain, The Geisha and The Girls of Gottenberg. Although her voice had firmly cast her in light operatic roles, May longed for an opportunity to prove herself as a dramatic actress and was given the opportunity when the famous French actor Monsieur de Max wanted to introduce her to Paris as 'Juliet' to his 'Romeo'. However, her French was too weak, and although de Max was prepared to pay her expenses for six months whilst she prepared for the part she was forced to decline. Six months out of her career was a luxury she could not afford so she carried on with her musical comedy roles. Two years later she did in go to Paris where she was rapturously received by the French audiences. Returning home to the USA after that engagement, she was temporarily reported missing by her parents when she was not heard from for over five weeks.

Now she was a major star on both sides of the Atlantic and it seemed she had the World at her feet. Personal tragedy struck on New Years Day, 1910 however, when her mother was discovered dead in a gas filled room. It was not determined whether the tragedy had been a suicide or the result of an unfortunate accident. Returning to England later that year she married Eaton Arthur Haines, a minor English Nobleman, in London. But it proved to be a troubled marriage from the start. Haines, it appears, has misrepresented his wealth to her before their marriage and it was left to her to support him and his spendthrift ways. Worse, she alleged that he frequently beat her, always being careful to restrict his blows to her body so as not to leave marks that might give away his abuse or impair her ability to earn money. After two turbulent years she parted from Haines and divorced him in December 1914 on the grounds of cruelty and financial desertion.

Continuing her career on both sides of the Atlantic, she was in France shortly before the outbreak of the Great War and escaped the German invasion by the margin of only a few weeks. Sousa played the role of a model Juliette in the 1911 play of "The Count of Luxembourg" at Daly's Theatre in London. In 1913, De Sousa declared bankruptcy.[6]

De Sousa retired in 1918, following a theatrical production in Australia, married a local doctor, and eventually moved to Shanghai. In 1943, following a seven-month imprisonment as a civilian internee under the Japanese in Chapei Civil Assembly Center, in Shanghai, China, she returned to the United States on the Gripsholm[7] and took a job in Chicago as a scrubwoman in the public-school system.[8] Her years of internment had taken their toll on her health however, and soon she was forced to quit working because she was too weak to continue. Without means to support herself, her condition worsened through malnutrition and she died, penniless and alone, a charity case in the county hospital on 8 August 1948. Once the toast of Europe and America, whose voice had thrilled royalty and the nobility as well as countless masses, she died alone and unloved, unable even to feed herself. Her body lay unclaimed in the morgue and was interred in a paupers grave,[8] at age 66.[2]


May De Sousa was married twice to:

  • Eaton Arthur Haines, a stockbroker, of Nunda, New York.[6][8][9] They married Haverstraw, New York, on 24 April 1910[10] and divorced in 1914, reportedly after De Sousa was beaten by her husband for years.[11] Haines died in 1933.[12]
  • Dr. William E. O'Hara (1879—1941), an Australian surgeon.[8] They met in 1918 while De Sousa was in Australia in a theatrical production and married in Melbourne, Australia, in either 1919 or 1920; he died in 1941.[8]


  1. 1900 U. S. Federal Census, accessed on on 13 September 2012
  2. "Milestones". Time. August 23, 1948. Retrieved June 1, 2010.
  3. "New York To See "Dollar Princess". Charles Frohman Gets American Rights And Expects To Make A Hit. Wants May De Sousa In It. She Is Now Playing Engagement in Berlin Offered Her Just as She Was Sailing for This Country". New York Times. April 24, 1908. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
  4. John De Sousa; Retrieved March 11, 2015
  5. Casey, Robert J. (2007) [1952]. Chicago Medium Rare. pp. 18, 241. ISBN 978-1-4067-5819-1. Retrieved June 1, 2010.
  6. "May De Sousa A Bankrupt", The New York Times, 28 September 1913
  7. Leck, Greg Captives of Empire: The Japanese Internment of Allied Civilians in China, 1941-1945, pg 533'
  8. "Once Famous Soprano Dies in Charity Ward", Lodi News-Sentinel, 11 August 1948
  9. "La Belle Americaine", The Nunda (NY) News, unknown date
  10. "May De Sousa Was an April Bride", The New York Times, 8 May 1910
  11. "Actress Tells Divorce Court How Husband Beat Her, Sparing Her Face Because That Meant Earning Power", The Milwaukee Journal, 23 December 1914
  12. "Annual Summary Local Events 1933", The Nunda (NY) News, 5 January 1934
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