The Very Last of Lola

Lola kept up a steady pace of lecturing in 1857-1860. She not only toured throughout the eastern states, but had a successful tour of England and Scotland. The popularity of her lectures and books put her on a sound financial footing, and she could afford to give generously to religious and charitable causes. She attended a Methodist church weekly and lived modestly. Gone were the extravagances of her youth.

She lectured as Lola Montez but referred to herself privately as Mrs. Heald, the name of her deceased second husband. She also still proudly claimed the title of Countess of Landsfeld.

Lola Montez in 1858 with a new shorter hairstyle

On Saturday, June 30, 1860 she suffered a stroke. Paralyzed on her left side, she was looked after by friends. Slowly she recovered some powers of speech and mobility and by December she hoped for a full recovery. She began visiting the women at the New York Magdalen Society’s refuge for women who were trying to escape prostitution. As one who had suffered the mockery and scorn of society herself, she sympathized with their plight.

An excursion in the open air in December brought about a setback. She developed pneumonia and on January 17, 1861 she died. She was forty years old.

A number of sources have attributed her death to tertiary syphilis (looking at you, Wikipedia). Bruce Seymour, the author of the most thorough biography of Lola makes no mention of this. Surely a stroke and pneumonia was enough to bring about her death. Likely the notion of syphilis is a rumor in the “wages of sin” vein that some people find satisfying.

Her friend, Mrs. Buchanan, who had known her as a schoolmate in Scotland, saw to her burial at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Her tombstone gives her name as “Mrs. Eliza Gilbert,” the name her friend knew her as in school. Lola Montez was no more.

Lola’s headstone. The age given is probably incorrect. She was always inconsistent about her birthdate.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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3 Responses to The Very Last of Lola

  1. Suzanne Annette Stone says:

    Thank you for your always interesting posts, Nancy! I hope to visit Chico in the fall, after almost 3 years staying close to Los Angeles. I will let you know what my plans are. It would be nice to see you and Jean for lunch and a visit the Bidwell Mansion. I recently did a podcast about my Jeopardy! career: Hope you like it! Best wishes, Suzanne

  2. John Gallardo says:

    Thanks, Nancy, for this truly intriguing story!

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