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Sun, 01.15.1893

Emma Chambers Maitland, Dancer and Boxer born

Emma Chambers Maitland

*Emma Chambers Maitland was born on this date in 1893. She was a Black dancer, teacher, and boxer.

Born Jane Chambers, she was from near Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of Wyatt Chambers and Cora Chambers. Her parents were sharecroppers, and she had seven brothers. She was educated at a convent school in Rock Castle, Virginia, and qualified as a teacher. As a young woman, she changed her first name when she moved to Washington, D.C..

Emma Maitland married a Howard University medical student, Clarence Maitland. They had a daughter together in 1917. Clarence Maitland died from tuberculosis within a year of their wedding. As a teacher and a widow with a young daughter to support, Maitland moved to Paris.

She danced at the Moulin Rouge, modeled for artists, and did a boxing act with another American performer, Aurelia Wheedlin. Maitland became serious about boxing, trained with American boxer Jack Taylor, and toured with Wheedlin in Europe, billed as the world's lightweight female boxing champion. She also boxed in Canada, Cuba, and Mexico. Maitland moved back to the United States in 1926, lived in New York City, and continued performing as a "boxeuse".

She appeared in clubs, vaudeville, and on the New York stage in black revues, including Messin' Around (1929), Change Your Luck (1930), and Fast and Furious (1931). Maitland worked as a bodyguard and taught dance and gymnastics. In her later years, she moved to Martha's Vineyard. Maitland donated her papers and souvenirs to the Schomburg Collection at the New York Public Library in 1943. She died in early 1975, aged 82. In 2015, Maitland's former home in Oak Bluffs became a stop on the African American Heritage Trail of Martha's Vineyard. In 2020, she was the subject of an exhibit at the Martha's Vineyard Museum.

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