The woman in this experiment is Florence Foster Jenkins, an American opera singer who managed to build a career and an enduring reputation despite her extremely dubious vocal talents. She is remembered fondly as “the world’s worst singer,” and has inspired a recent film adaptation of her life starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.
Nascina Florence Foster was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on July 19, 1868. Her father, Charles Dorrance Foster, was a lawyer of considerable wealth (both earned and inherited), and a Pennsylvania landowner. Her mother’s name was Mary Jane, and she had a sister called Lillian, who passed away at the age of eight. In her early years, Nascina decided to abandon her first name for her middle name, Florence.
Jenkins was a child prodigy piano player, performing at many venues and festivals in Pennsylvania. She even played at the White House during the administration of Rutherford B. Hayes. When she requested that her wealthy father send her abroad to study music, however, he refused, so in retribution she eloped to Philadelphia with the much older Dr. Frank Thornton Jenkins when she was only fourteen.
Illness and Career
Not long after they were married, Jenkins contracted syphilis from her husband and they became separated, although she retained his family name for the rest of her life. Florence was able to earn a living as a piano teacher until she injured her arm, at which point she joined forces with her mother and moved to New York City around 1900.
Jenkins’ father died in 1909, leaving Florence enough funds to pursue a career in singing at long last. In the same year, she met Shakespearean actor St. Clair Bayfield, who became her manager and loosely defined partner, and with whom she lived for the rest of her life.
With Bayfield’s help, Florence took voice lessons and gained membership in numerous women’s clubs, becoming musical director for many of them. She founded her own organization as well, called The Verdi Club, and in her early 40’s began giving recitals to carefully chosen groups of supporters.
These gatherings were by invitation only (avoiding the presence of professional critics), and this may have been for the best, given that Florence suffered from a distinct lack of rhythm, pitch, and tone. The notes she sang were frequently flat, and her pronunciations were often incorrect. And all of this was enhanced by her tendency to take on difficult pieces that were well beyond her limited capabilities.
Despite all of these failings, however, audiences were still greatly entertained by Florence’s performances, if perhaps not for the reasons she intended. She dressed in elaborate and dramatic winged costumes, sometimes flinging flowers into the crowd. Her enjoyment of the music was unmistakable, her enthusiasm was infectious, and she was well respected for her kindness and numerous charitable projects.
Jenkins understood that some people were critical of her performances, but she didn’t allow them to hold her back. “People may say I can’t sing,” she retorted, “but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”
Jenkins’ curious popularity resulted in increasing demand for her performances, until she was finally persuaded to hold one public performance at Carnegie Hall, at the advanced age of 76. The concert took place on October 25, 1944, and tickets were in great demand. Celebrities such as Cole Porter and actress Kitty Carlisle attended, and conductor André Kostelanetz composed a song just for the occasion.
Because this was a public concert, professional critics could not be prevented from attending, and the negative reviews that followed the concert were extremely upsetting to Florence. She suffered a heart attack two days later, and passed away a month later, on November 26, 1944, at the Hotel Seymour in New York City.
Several readers identified that Florence was involved in the arts, played the piano, and sang in music halls. She gained a lot of self-worth and enjoyment from her performances, and her strength of character allowed her to ignore her many detractors in favor of following her passion for music.
Some of you felt that Jenkins had suffered a loss in her life, and this may refer to the death of her sister Lilly at the young age of 8. Florence had an unhappy marriage as well, and perhaps as a result of her illness, had no children of her own.
It is possible that Jenkins’ nearly lifelong battle with syphilis was partly responsible for her inability to sing properly, because the mercury treatments of the time could result in tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. It is also possible that the disease produced a certain amount of mental instability, which many readers seemed to pick up on.
Florence was indeed assisted by the wealth of her parents in achieving her goals, but she appears to have been a very kind-hearted, loving, charitable person in her own right. This probably accounts in part for her enduring popularity, despite her artistic shortcomings. She did pass away from a heart condition, which more than one reader mentioned, and a reference to the name Claire may refer to Jenkins’ longtime partner, St. Clair Bayfield.
Overall, there were a great number of hits on this experiment – more evidence that practice makes perfect! Get ready to hone your skills even more on the next one, which will be posted in the near future!
Would you like to learn how to receive direct guidance from your Higher self and Spirit Guides, and find out more about your soul’s purpose?
Then you may be interested in my Intuitive Awakening course – you can find it here.
Yay! My most accurate one so far! Thanks Anna 🙂
I struggled with this one , I only had vague images , I had park like surrounds and a big old house , so I suppose that was on track , the only image I had of her was she was at some kind of table , there was something on the table , I thought something not right with the scene, maybe on the table was a crystal ball or tarot cards or finally I thought maybe she was writing , I was only viewing her from behind , now I assume she was sitting at a piano and looking at music sheets not sitting at a table , this was a fairly weak reading and sense that i got from this one but I’m still pleased with my result
thanks Anna I love these experiments
Funny, when I read that she had syphilis my left ear heard a high pitched ring. Later you mentioned tinnitus due to treatments. Yay for clairaudience! I got that she was an entertainer and suffered the loss of a great love that felt like miscarriage. Kind of fits! Thanks for doing these!!
It’s ok, not near or on the mark with this one. Can’t prove or disprove if she indeed had those past lives I mentioned. Not in a place to take on training right now, tho part of me wants to. Namaste
I saw her as a strong, cheerful, open, and forthright leader who cares for others and community. I saw her as a hospitable, cheerful, and sympathetic person who assembled others and helped to bring people together (in my mind’s eye I saw her hosting teas and serving guests and caring for those around her). I also saw her stick-to-itiveness, and her ability to make the best of a not-so-great situation. I also sensed that she was a teacher and loved books. The person that she reminded me of was Julia Child – which may speak to her picking up a new craft later in life and achievement of success with it, dealing with some losses in her life, and also her inability to have children. I also figured that she was an adult during WWII and dealt with some of the hardships that go along with that. Overall, I got that she was a kindhearted individual.
Well done everyone 🙂
Mon – I noticed you were doing really well on this one when you started talking about her ears. All that practice is paying off!
Thank you Anna for your kind words.
I visit your website regularly and mostly checking for new experiments!
Also, considering readers’ recurring clues that Florence had committed some extreme wrongs – I actually think we were rather accurate!
Many readers got hints along the lines that Florence was evil or a killer, even though there is no evidence of her committing such atrocities against other persons. However, after reading more online, I noticed many newspaper articles critiquing her singing have headlines and/or comments using language referring to killing, death, and dying. Headlines like “Massacring Mozart”! Florence knew how to ‘murder a note’! Other articles said her voice sounded like someone was killing a cat, or sounded like birds dying mid flight. Maybe readers picked up on the media’s (and public’s) reactions to the quality of Florence’s voice!
I think Florence’s ‘murdering music’ aspect to her character contrasts against her charitable works and generous nature, and therefore contributes to that 2-faced/dual sense many readers picked up on.
Looking forward to more fun experiments!