Adelaide Ambrose (Addie Minta Puckett). Publisher. 1887-1967
Eleanora Ambrose (Mary Eleanor Puckett). Dancer. 1901-1988
Two sisters left their Newton, Kansas, home in the early 1920s to find opportunities in New York City. They beat the odds to find success – one as a publisher, the other as a dancer. The sisters enjoyed celebrity status in 1920s and 1930s New York in a world far from their Harvey County roots.
Addie Minta Puckett, born in Sedgwick in 1887, moved to Kansas City around 1908 and eventually on to New York in pursuit of an acting career. She soon discovered that her chance of success lay outside the theater. She found luck investing in the stock market. With her gains, she invested in real estate, buying three large apartment houses in New York and rental properties in Kansas. In spring 1927 she established a publishing firm on Fifth Avenue under the name of Adelaide Ambrose, which drew the attention of society magazines.
Adelaide published several titles, including, Kinks, by an anonymous writer, which was so popular that she published three editions. An October 1927 Topeka Daily Capital article reported that “Between now and next spring Miss Ambrose plans to bring out several new fiction and non-fiction works.” Her second book, Concerto, was written by English author Elsie Pain. The Daily Capital article claimed that until Ambrose “invaded the book publishing industry in New York last spring, no woman had ever dreamed of turning the trick, much less putting it across.”
“When I decided to become a book publisher and told some of my friends about my plans they thought I was a bit wild.” Ambrose said in an October 1927 article in National Magazine. “But I believe – and my own experience bears this out – that brains and money have a market value.”
While novels brought media attention, the firm thrived for a time publishing technical books and leaflets. Adelaide eventually closed the publishing firm in 1931 and continued to live in New York where she managed her investments.
As a Newton High School student, Mary Eleanor Puckett dreamed of becoming a dancer. Born in Newton in 1901, she followed her sister to New York City shortly after graduation. Taking the stage name of Eleanora Ambrose, she studied dance in anticipation of a career. A March 1927 Kansas City Post article credited “Adelaide’s finances and influences that made it possible for her talented sister, Eleanora, to study under the best dancing instructors in New York City.” In 1925 Eleanora met Maurice Mouvet, an internationally famous cabaret dancer. Eleanora agreed to marry Mouvet and become his fifth dancing partner, despite the protest of Adelaide who had hopes of a more prestigious dancing career for her sister.
Maurice and Eleanora traveled to Lausanne, Switzerland, to work out dance routines. Practicing daily for more than a month, the dance team returned to Paris for an informal wedding in the magistrate’s office. Nuptial congratulations poured in from around the world including telegrams from Irving Berlin and Maurice Chevalier.
The couple opened their Paris dance engagement at the Maurice and Eleanora Club in April 1926. After a successful run, they returned to New York. Maurice, who had been diagnosed with tuberculosis, became quite ill and the Mouvets returned to Switzerland. He died there with Eleanora at his side in May 1927.
Eleanora returned to her hometown as a celebrity in July 1927 to participate in the dedication of the Newton airport. For a short time she resumed her dance career, partnering with one of Maurice’s protégés, and dancing in several Broadway shows. She gave up her career in 1929 when she married Sam Katz, who operated Publix Theatres. They were divorced and she married Donald Rainer in 1934 and moved to California. When this marriage ended in 1948, Eleanora moved back to New York.
In 1961 Adelaide returned to Newton where she died in 1967. After returning home to Newton in 1971, Eleanora died in 1988. The two sisters ended their lives quietly with no local recognition of their once celebrity status.
Entry: Ambrose, Adelaide and Eleanora
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: January 2010
Date Modified: July 2012
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