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Lola Montez


One of the more colorful characters of the 19th century was Lola Montez (c. 1818-1861), who claimed to be a Spanish dancer, although she was actually Irish. She was best known for her “Spider Dance”, a sort of tarantella which involved shaking rubber tarantulas out of her clothing in such a way as to provide generous views of her person. Among other exploits, she became the mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who made her a countess; she was the virtual ruler of the country until she was ousted during the revolution of 1848.

During a rare quiet period in her life, Lola lived in the Gold Rush country of California. She gave dancing lessons to a miner’s daughter, Lotta Crabtree (1847-1924), who later became one of the greatest stars of the American stage.

Lola maintained a picturesque idyll and played with children. It was small Lotta Crabtree with her red hair, merry black eyes, and irrepressible laugh, who claimed her special interest. … Lola taught her to dance; and though that imperious spirit would never have admitted it, Lotta had a far truer sense of rhythm than Lola herself ever had.



  1. Paisley, what a great post!
    I’ve never really had a clear concept of Lola Montez.
    Plus, I was never sure she actually existed. Now to learn she was a real person, an Irishwoman no less, leaves me speechless.
    Now please write a blog about Lotta Crabtree!

  2. Thanks, Mary Ann. I did do a post on Lotta Crabtree a few months ago somewhere. She was big up here in my area and very popular on her tours.

  3. Denise Eagan says:

    She was one of the most fascinating women. I would love to have seen her spider dance!

  4. What a colorful character! Great post!

  5. It’s difficult to imagine a spider dance, isn’t it! Maybe she bent over and walked around with both hands and feet on the floor. 🙂

  6. Lola Montez’s name is quite famous around the area where I live. Her reputation spred far and wide.

  7. Paisley, fascinating woman, Lola Montez. She evidently accomplished quite a lot in her life. I’m always inspired by women who chose to dance to entertain. They must have been such creative people.

    I’ve always loved to dance and loved watching dancers, especially ballet which was my first love of dance.

    How cool that she lived in that part of California for part of her life. Thanks for the posting about her.

  8. I wish they had Youtube in those days. Think of how fun it would be to really see our ancestors in action.

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