Sophie Tucker Is Born

Sophie Tucker was born Sonya Kalish to a Russian-Jewish family on January 13.

The year was either 1884 or 1886. Family legend has it that baby Sonya was born along the road somewhere in Russia or Poland during her family’s flight to the United States. Family legend also explains the name change from Kalish to Abuza during this time, as Sophie’s father sought to avoid detection by borrowing the identity of an Italian friend he met along the way. The Abuza family settled in Boston during an era when millions of Eastern Europeans, many of them Jewish, made their way to new homes in America. The immigration station at Ellis Island was opened in 1892 to process the influx of new arrivals, serving as a portal for 12 million people before it closed in 1954.

Sophie Abuza began her career as an entertainer while working as a waitress at her family's restaurant in Hartford, Connecticut, where the Abuzas had moved when she was young. Sophie earned good tips for adding songs and humor to the food service. In her teens she attended local shows and also performed in amateur contests with her sister. After finishing school in 1903, Sophie eloped with Louis Tuck, a local delivery driver, but the marriage did not last. Soon after giving birth, Sophie Tuck ran away to New York to become a professional entertainer, leaving her infant son in the care of her mother and younger sister.

Sophie Tucker (January 13, 1884–February 9, 1966) was a singer and comedian, one of the most popular entertainers in America during the first two-thirds of the 20th century.

She was born Sonia Kalish to a Jewish family in Tsarist Russia. Her family emigrated to the United States when she was an infant, and settled in Hartford, Connecticut. The family changed its name to Abuza, and her parents opened a restaurant.