You are here

Minnie Ashley



One of the great beauties of the stage at the end of the 19th century, Minnie Ashley's talents as a singer and dancer emerged in the madcap musical "1492" in 1892. An actress whose triumphs took place as much in Boston with the Museum Company as in New York with the Augustin Daly Company, Ashley was winsome, cheerful, and quick. She went from success to success, winning stardom as Mlle. Sophie in "A Country Girl." Her rather startling beauty had the odd effect of giving focus to the shenanigans in the more outré musical comedies of the turn of the century--"Wang" and "San Toy."

Just as she achieved stardom infrared necrosis of her eyes caused by prolonged exposure to theatrical arc lights caused her sight to degrade. In 1902 she quit the stage, married politician William Astor Chanler (the wealthy grandson of John Jacob Astor), and visited oculists in the hope of restoring her vision. Fearing the progressive degradation of her eyes, she took to the tactile art of sculpture. Chanler and Ashley separated amicably in 1909 when William decided to reside in Paris while Ashley remained in America to raise Chanler's two sons.

In 1911, after a decade's absence from the stage, Ashley tried her hand at acting again, revisiting "A Country Girl." But sculpture proved a more congenial art thereafter. She worked under the name Beatrice Ashley Chanler. Philanthropy greatly occupied her in later life. Her birthday is incorrectly given as 1886 in some sources.

NOTES: David S. Shields/ALS