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JoAnna Wool

dancer and vaudevillian was born in Covington, Kentucky, in 1872. According to her husband, Charles E. Johnson, Dean was born Dora Babbige, and her brother, Clarence Babbige, served as a judge in Kentucky during the Reconstruction period. By the mid-1880s her family moved to Indiana, and Dean found employment as a nursemaid in nearby Ohio.

Dean entered show business as a “statue girl” in The Creole Show, a popular touring production staged by Sam T. Jack. Dean possessed a striking figure, a pleasing smile, and a quality of warmth and personal charm that she was able to project from the stage; billed as “The Black Venus,” she struck dramatic poses during musical numbers and made a hit with the audience. Paired with talented soft-shoe dancer Charles E. Johnson Dean also became known for her performance of the cakewalk a dance developed by blacks ...