Rainey, Gertrude “Ma”
Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, known as the “Mother of the Blues,” was born in Columbus on April 26, 1886 in Columbus, Georgia. Gertrude Malissa Pridgett began singing at the Springer Opera House at age 14. She subsequently joined black vaudeville troupes and minstrel shows touring the south. Performing in tent shows, the groups mainly sang popular music hits. But shortly after she married “Pa” Rainey at age 18, “Ma” Rainey began bringing audience something different. She began to work into her Rabbit Foot Minstrels act plaintive, poignant music she had first overhead a young Missouri woman sing. As the music she dubbed the blues caught on, Rainey’s fame grew. She was one of the first female artists to record the blues professionally. In 1934, she retired and purchased two theaters - one in Columbus and one in Rome - which she managed until her death. She died at age 53 in Rome, Georgia. On September 17, 1994, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Rainey.