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Ginger Rogers (1911-1995) was a talented, elegant woman, most frequently remembered for her on-screen appearances opposite Fred Astaire in the 1930s. However, the skills of Ginger Rogers went far beyond singing and dancing to include a wide range of activities, from outdoor sports to the breeding of dairy cows. Ginger Rogers was a powerful and famous woman in an era in which women were frequently ill paid and underestimated, and she received many honors during her lifetime for her achievements.
Ginger Rogers was born Virginia MacMath in Independence, Missouri in 1911. Her nickname comes from her younger sister, who was unable to pronounce "Virginia" and called her “Ginja” instead. Ginger Rogers began her dancing career early, winning the Texas State Charleston Championship at age 14. She toured the country shortly thereafter, and found herself performing in theatres in St. Louis, Chicago, and eventually Broadway. She starred in a number of Broadway musicals, moving on to Hollywood in the 1920s.
In Hollywood, Ginger Rogers captivated viewers with her beauty, voice, acting, and dancing in a number of films before her career took off with Flying Down to Rio opposite Fred Astaire in 1933. While Ginger Rogers was already a popular and highly paid actress, her career skyrocketed with the pairing, and the duo went on to rule the silver screen for another six years. Choosing to make her own way, rather than being typecast into a dynamic duo with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers starred in dramatic roles in the 1940s, starting with Kitty Foyle in 1940. Her work in these films showcased her acting skills, proving that Ginger Rogers was more than just another Hollywood pretty face. Her film career ended in 1965, although she went on to perform in further Broadway productions, where she played to packed houses.
In 1969, Ginger Rogers moved to Rogers Rogue River Ranch, which she used as a home base while traveling all over the world to promote products for JCPenney, perform a traveling nightclub act, and later promote her book, My Story, published in 1991. In addition to her formidable acting skills, Ginger Rogers spent time breeding Guernsey cows in Oregon and refining her tennis, golf, shooting, and artistic skills. She was an excellent painter and sculptor, and frequently wished that she had more time to engage in the arts. She was also a compelling public speaker, and several of her addresses entered the Congressional Record.
A multidimensional and amazing woman, Ginger Rogers is unfortunately remembered primarily for a brief phase in her film career. She lived a long and full life as an actress, comedienne, athlete, dancer, singer, and public speaker.
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