Fatima, "the little tempest," was the stage name of an otherwise unidentified entertainer in the "Beautiful Orient," a Midway concession intended to replicate the Arab world. She was "the bewitching, black-eyed couchee-couchee dancer" and probably performed some version of the traditional belly dance. To see her, one had to pay the standard $.15 entrance into the Beautiful Orient and then pay an additional $.25 to see her show and that of her fellow dancers. Most of the audience for these shows was composed of men who didn't mind paying the 2000 equivalent of $8.00 per show.

Each day before a show began, Fatima would mount one of the concession's camels and be led through the 'streets' of the Beautiful Orient to drum up business. Entertainers like Fatima were barred by Exposition regulation from a "ballyhoo", that is, from providing samples of their performances to passersby outside the entrances to their concessions while the spieler enticed customers with his words. Such a demonstration was considered unsuitable for accidental viewing by "decent people" who might be passing by.

And Midway dancers were regarded by the general population as one social level lower than women who made their living as stage actors (the latter regarded as outlaws without moral character). If Fatima were a native Egyptian or Syrian, she might not have concerned herself with what the Exposition visitors thought of someone who bared her midriff and ankles to legions of strangers in exchange for money. But it's likely that Fatima was an American or an immigrant who was attracted to the Midway life because it was preferable to the grinding, dangerous factory work available to unskilled women in 1901. And she therefore would have been aware of the looks of condescension and even contempt from the women she passed while on the Midway. And she would not have been safe from leering gazes of men or improper advances by good husbands who also thought that, by her brazen behavior, she had surrendered all protections afforded women .

Look here for an album of Midway dancers and notice how few seem to be enjoying themselves...

Hear how the Buffalo investors recruited their Midway dancers.


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