Lillie Meers



       Her Story Continued...


The star always remembered the plight of Katie Stokes. The newspapers in the states reported, that she left her first husband, stranded, in the Middle of South America. Todd  walked through the jungle, in order to reach the coast of the continent, where he found safe  passage to America.

Lillie started a partnership with Luciano Pruna and together they became the leading circus owners in South America.  The equestrienne maintained the heritage of her family and provided the joy of circus life to her children. 




Detail of Barnum & Bailey Circus Herald, 1891

Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved

                        Lillie Meers Interview


Lewiston Daily, Sunday,  July 11, 1898



                                                             CAREER OF AN EQUESTRIENNE


The life of a circus girl is not all cakes and ale, in the opinion of Miss Lillie Meers, an equestrienne of international fame;  “Women bareback riders command first class salaries,: she said, “but they must be first class performers.  We have to be as near perfection in our various acts as possible, and consequently we are obliged to practice four hours each day.  The next drawback is the element of insecurity, or rather positive danger, in the business.   We never know at what moment we shall ‘come a-cropper’ and be laid up for life.  Of course it is this very danger which makes our salaries so high, for after we are disabled the circus has no further use for us.


“Few girls have the luck of Katie Stokes.  She had a bad fall, broke both legs and had to give up white tents forever.  When she recovered sufficiently to walk about, she went on the stage at a salary equal to about one-tenth of what she had been drawing.  She proved an indifferent actress, but Manager John Stetson of Boston fell in love with her and made her his wife.  That fall in the ring made Katie Stokes ‘ fortune, but similar mishaps have ruined many other girls for life and driven them to grinding poverty or to drink.


“That reminds me of another big drawback.  I allude to the temptation to drink.  The exertion, the late hours and the necessity to keep one’s nerves strung to the highest tension, all act as incentives to drink.  I know many girls who began with a glass of ‘arf and ‘arf just before going into the ring, but who wound up with a whole quart of whisky after leaving it.  Such girls have inevitably been forced to leave the circus business.”


Miss Meers said that while these are some of the most important disadvantages of a rider’s life there are many advantages.


“For me,” she said, “a circus has so powerful a fascination that I do not think I could bring myself to leave it.  There is something indescribably delightful in the constant change from place to place, the frequent sleeping under canvas and the general happy-go-lucky condition of things which belong peculiarly to our "caravans.”


Miss Meers says that very well know equestrians get from $110 to $150 a week, while no female bareback rider is paid less than $40.

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