Madame Bey was a pioneer as a female business owner, but today not many people know about her. She was born in Turkey in 1881, she was an opera singer, married a Turkish diplomat, migrated to the United States, was friends with President McKinley and his wife, learned seven languages and ran an oriental rug business. Her real claim to fame was running a boxer training camp where seventy-eight boxing hall of famers practiced their sport.
Madame Beys: Home to Boxing Legends by Gene Pantalone is an impressive book. What drew me to it was hearing about this woman who was working in a male dominated sport at a time when women didn’t run businesses. Not only is this a story of a woman who led an extraordinary life, it’s the story of boxing from the turn of the century to the 1940s and of the United States during a very different period.
My only complaint about this book is that it seemed a little dry at times. There are some long descriptions of the countryside where Madame Bey’s camp was. There was also a lot of detail given on how Washington D.C. looked and how everyone dressed. This was all towards the beginning of the book when I was wanting to hear personal stories on Madame Bey and the boxers she worked with. It does get into great stories though and the author’s attention to detail in this book is admirable. I feel the author was trying to make this book more like a history book then just another sports biography but it works as both.
Madame Bey’s Home to Boxing Legends is a boxing fans dream. It covers boxing when it was the number 1 sport and has biographies and personal stories on several boxers who competed along with fight records and when the fights took place. You can tell this book was a labor of love by someone who loves history and boxing. What I enjoyed the most was hearing about Madame Bey’s compassion towards all the boxers. Some considered them brutes but she looked at them as her boys. She hated seeing them get hurt and never attended a boxing match. I also liked hearing about the work the boxers had to do around Madame Bay’s home in exchange for room, board and a place to workout.
This is a fascinating read on many fronts and you don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy it. It’s also a glimpse of what life and the United States was like from the late 1800’s through the 1940’s. I liked hearing about the 1901 world’s fair and the assassination of President William McKinley along with stories on Max Schmeling and Jack Dempsey. Madame Bey’s: Home to Boxing Legends is more than just a story of a woman who ran a business in a time when woman weren’t business owners, it is also a history of the United States and boxing during time when boxing was the height of its popularity. This book is a must have for history buffs.