Butterfly McQueen

(1911 - 1995)

A photo of Butterfly McQueen
Butterfly McQueen
1911 - 1995
Born
January 8, 1911
Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia United States
Death
December 22, 1995
Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia United States
Other Names
Butterfly McQueen
Summary
Butterfly McQueen was born on January 8, 1911 in Augusta, Georgia. She died on December 22, 1995 in Augusta, Georgia at 84 years of age. We know that Butterfly McQueen had been residing in New York, New York County, New York 10031.
Updated: December 05, 2019
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Biography
Butterfly McQueen
Most commonly known name
Butterfly McQueen
Full name
Butterfly McQueen
Nickname(s) or aliases
New York, New York County, New York 10031
Last known residence
Female
Gender
Butterfly McQueen was born on in Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia United States
Birth
Butterfly McQueen died on in Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia United States
Death
Butterfly McQueen was born on in Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia United States
Butterfly McQueen died on in Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia United States
Birth
Death
Burns
Cause of death
Heritage

Ethnicity & Lineage

Black

Nationality & Locations

American
Childhood

Education

Early life and Education
Born Thelma McQueen in Tampa, Florida, on January 7, 1911, she planned to become a nurse until a high school teacher suggested that she try acting. McQueen initially studied with Janet Collins and went on to dance with the Venezuela Jones Negro Youth Group. Around this time she acquired the nickname "Butterfly" – a tribute to her constantly moving hands – for her performance of the Butterfly Ballet in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. (She had always hated her birth name, and later legally changed her name to Butterfly McQueen.) She performed with the dance troupe of Katherine Dunham before making her professional debut in George Abbott's Brown Sugar. In 1975, at age 64, McQueen received a bachelor's degree in political science from New York City College.

Religion

None [she was adamant]
Adulthood

Professions

Thelma "Butterfly" McQueen (January 7, 1911 – December 22, 1995) was an American actress.
Career[
McQueen's first role would become her most identifiable – Prissy, the young slave in Gone with the Wind. She uttered the famous words: "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!" Her distinctive, high-pitched voice was noted by a critic who described it as "the itsy-little voice fading over the far horizon of comprehension". While the role is well known to audiences, McQueen did not enjoy playing the part and felt it was demeaning to African-Americans.Originally a dancer, McQueen first appeared in film in 1939 as Prissy, Scarlett O'Hara's maid, in the film Gone with the Wind. She was unable to attend the movie's premiere because it was held at a whites-only theater. Often typecast as a maid, she said: "I didn't mind playing a maid the first time, because I thought that was how you got into the business. But after I did the same thing over and over, I resented it. I didn't mind being funny, but I didn't like being stupid."

She continued as an actress in film in the 1940s, and then moved to television acting in the 1950s.

Personal Life

She was a member of the Screen Actors' Guild and Actors Equity Association.
Obituary

Average Age

Life Expectancy

Butterfly's immediate relatives including parents, siblings, partnerships and children in the McQueen family tree.

Butterfly's Family

Parent
Parent
Butterfly McQueen
Partner
Child
Partner
Child
Sibling

Friends:

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Butterfly McQueen

Born Thelma McQueen
January 7, 1911
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
Died December 22, 1995 (aged 84)
Augusta, Georgia, U.S.
Cause of death Burns
Nationality American
Alma mater City College of New York
Occupation Actress
Years active 1939–1989

Thelma "Butterfly" McQueen (January 7, 1911 – December 22, 1995) was an American actress. Originally a dancer, McQueen first appeared in film in 1939 as Prissy, Scarlett O'Hara's maid, in the film Gone with the Wind. She was unable to attend the movie's premiere because it was held at a whites-only theater. Often typecast as a maid, she said: "I didn't mind playing a maid the first time, because I thought that was how you got into the business. But after I did the same thing over and over, I resented it. I didn't mind being funny, but I didn't like being stupid."

She continued as an actress in film in the 1940s, and then moved to television acting in the 1950s.

She also played an uncredited bit part as a sales assistant in The Women (1939), filmed after Gone with the Wind but released before it. She also played Butterfly, Rochester's niece and Mary Livingstone's maid in the Jack Benny radio program for a time during World War II. She appeared in an uncredited role in Mildred Pierce (1945) (where she had a good amount of screen time) and played a supporting role in Duel in the Sun (1946). By 1947, she had grown tired of the ethnic stereotypes she was required to play and ended her film career.

During World War II, McQueen frequently appeared as a comedian on the Armed Forces Radio Service broadcast Jubilee. Many of these broadcasts are available on the Internet Archive.

From 1950 until 1952 she was featured in another racially stereotyped role on the television series Beulah. She played Beulah's friend Oriole, a character originated on radio by Ruby Dandridge, who would then take over the TV role from McQueen in 1952-53. In a lighter moment, she appeared in a 1969 episode of The Dating Game.

Offers for acting roles began to dry up around this time, and she devoted herself to other pursuits including political study. She received a bachelor's degree in political science from City College of New York in 1975. McQueen played the character of Aunt Thelma, a fairy godmother, in the ABC Weekend Special episode "The Seven Wishes of Joanna Peabody" (1978) and the ABC Afterschool Special episode "Seven Wishes of a Rich Kid" (1979); her performance in the latter earned her a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming. She had one more role of substance in the 1986 film The Mosquito Coast.

McQueen was in the original version of the stage musical The Wiz when it debuted in Baltimore in 1974. She played the Queen of the Field Mice, a character from the original L. Frank Baum novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, when the show was revised prior to going to Broadway, McQueen's role was cut by incoming director Geoffrey Holder.

Personal life
McQueen never married or had any children. She lived in New York in the summer months and in Augusta, Georgia, during the winter.

In July 1983, a jury awarded McQueen $60,000 in a judgment stemming from a lawsuit she filed against two bus terminal security guards. McQueen sued for harassment after she claimed the security guards accused her of being a pickpocket and a vagrant while she was at a bus terminal in April 1979.

Atheism
In 1989, the Freedom From Religion Foundation honored her with its Freethought Heroine Award. "I'm an atheist," she had declared, "and Christianity appears to me to be the most absurd imposture of all the religions, and I'm puzzled that so many people can't see through a religion that encourages irresponsibility and bigotry." She told a reporter, "As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion." This quote was used by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in advertisements inside Madison, Wisconsin, buses in 2009 and in an Atlanta market in 2010.[

She lamented that, had humans put the energy on Earth and on people that had been put on mythology and on Jesus Christ, there would be less hunger and homelessness. "They say the streets are going to be beautiful in Heaven. Well, I'm trying to make the streets beautiful here ... When it's clean and beautiful, I think America is heaven. And some people are hell."

Later life and death
McQueen died at age 84 on December 22, 1995, at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, from burns sustained when a kerosene heater she attempted to light malfunctioned and burst into flames.

McQueen donated her body to medical science] and remembered the Freedom From Religion Foundation in her will.

Filmography
Year Title Role Notes
1939 The Women Lulu - Cosmetics Counter Maid Uncredited
1939 Gone with the Wind Prissy
1941 Affectionately Yours Butterfly
1943 Cabin in the Sky Lily
1943 I Dood It Annette Alternative title: By Hook or by Crook
1945 Flame of Barbary Coast Beulah – Flaxen's Maid Alternative title: Flame of the Barbary Coast
1945 Mildred Pierce Lottie – Mildred's Maid Uncredited
1946 Duel in the Sun Vashti Alternative title: King Vidor's Duel in the Sun
1948 Killer Diller Butterfly
1950 Studio One Episode: "Give Us Our Dream"
1950 to 1953 Beulah Oriole 4 episodes
1951 Lux Video Theatre Mary Episode: "Weather for Today"
1957 Hallmark Hall of Fame Episode: "The Green Pastures"
1970 The Phynx Herself
1974 Amazing Grace Clarine
1978 ABC Weekend Special Aunt Thelma Episode: "The Seven Wishes of Joanna Peabody"
1979 ABC Afterschool Special Aunt Thelma Episode: "Seven Wishes of a Rich Kid"
1981 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Television movie
1985 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Blind Negress Television movie
1986 The Mosquito Coast Ma Kennywick
1988 The Making of a Legend: Gone With The Wind Herself (Interview) Television documentary
1989 Polly Miss Priss Television movie

Further reading
Butterfly McQueen Remembered by Stephen Bourne 2008

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Butterfly's lifetime.

In 1911, in the year that Butterfly McQueen was born, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire occurred, one of the deadliest industrial disasters in U.S. history. 146 workers (123 women and 23 men, many of them recent Jewish and Italian immigrants) died from the fire or by jumping to escape the fire and smoke. The garment factory was on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of a building in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. Doors to stairwells and exits had been locked in order to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks and to prevent theft, so they couldn't escape by normal means when the fire broke out. Due to the disaster, legislation was passed to protect sweatshop workers.

In 1929, at the age of 18 years old, Butterfly was alive when American Samoa officially became a U.S. territory. Although a part of the United States since 1900, the Ratification Act of 1929 vested "all civil, judicial, and military powers in the President of the United States of America".

In 1937, when she was 26 years old, on May 28th, the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge opened to cars. Taking 5 years to build, the 4,200-foot-long suspension bridge was an engineering marvel of its time - 11 men died during construction. The "international orange" color was chosen because it resisted rust and fading. To the present, it is the symbol of the City that is known throughout the world.

In 1984, at the age of 73 years old, Butterfly was alive when on January 1, "Baby Bells" were created. AT&T had been the provider of telephone service (and equipment) in the United States. The company kept Western Electric, Bell Labs, and AT&T Long Distance. Seven new regional companies (the Baby Bells) covered local telephone service and were separately owned. AT&T lost 70% of its book value due to this move.

In 1995, in the year of Butterfly McQueen's passing, on October 16th, the Million Man March took place on the National Mall in Washington DC. The March was organized to address "the ills of black communities and call for unity and revitalization of African American communities". An estimated 850,000 people attended.

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