A scandalous figure who regularly changed details of her life to suit her image, actress Anna Held was best known for her relationship with Florenz Ziegfeld. Held sang on the streets of Paris as a child before moving to London, where she joined Jacob Adler’s Yiddish Theater. She returned to Paris and began performing in light comedy, capitalizing on her five-foot-tall body and corseted, eighteen-inch waist to play precocious urchins and ingénues. Legends abounded: that she dared American women to drive fast, that she bathed in milk and champagne, that she had captured a runaway horse. In 1894 she secretly married Maximo Carrera, a man twice her age, and had a child with him before the young Florenz Ziegfeld courted her with orchids and diamonds in 1896 and convinced her to divorce Carrera and elope to America. Ziegfeld and Held lived together for over a decade, separating around 1908. Some credit her with helping Ziegfeld create his famous Follies. From 1896–1918, Held performed in comedies and musicals, making her American debut in 1896 with A Parlor Match, which Ziegfeld had revived. Held died young, from anemia and bronchial pneumonia, but many believed that the real cause was her trademark tight corsets.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Anna Held." (Viewed on January 20, 2017) <https://jwa.org/people/held-anna>.