Who runs the world? Girls! In honor of Women’s History Month, Junior Tyler Hill tells the story of Esther Jones, an underrated entertainer and Betty Boop inspirer.
Women’s History month is the month that we celebrate many female contributions from around the world. Though we continue to fight for women’s rights, it is our job to protect, uplift and encourage all women to be the future.
Many know and love Betty Boop, one of the most famous animation characters ever created. But did you know the character was originally inspired by an African American jazz singer and entertainer in the 1920’s by the name of Esther Jones?
Esther was born in 1919 in Chicago, Illinois and became a child entertainer by making baby noises and interpolating words in her songs and performances. She had an unforgettable stage name Baby Esther’ as she performed at the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem, New York. While performing one night a white jazz singer, Helen Kane was in the audience and decided to steal Jone’s singing and scatting style. Kane also changed the interpolated words “boo-boo-boo” and “doo-doo-doo” to “boop-oop-a-doop” while recording her single titled “I Wanna Be Loved By You”.
Esther was only a young girl at the time, and it must have been heartbreaking knowing her creativity and talent was taken from her. Kane filed a lawsuit in 1932 against Max Fleischer and the Paramount corporation claiming that they stole the phrase “boop-oop-a-doop” from her song “I Wanna Be Loved By You”. Kane’s song would have never existed had it not been for Esther’s singing style.
When the case went to trial, Paramount’s legal team called Esther Jones’ manager, Lou Walton, to testify. He stated that he taught Esther how to use the scat lyrics in her performances and added that he witnessed Esther’s acts well before Kane started “boop-ing” in her songs. With this information, the judge ruled against Helen Kane and at the height of her career was exposed as a fraud. Kane faded from popularity.
This story sends an important message. So many women are appropriated and stolen from but it is our job and moral duty to tell history the correct way so that the following generations of strong beautiful women can be proud of their past because her history is HERstory.