Madame Cora is wearing splendid boots and a velvet outfit resplendent with ruched trim in this photo annotated with “magicienne”, in the collection of the State Library of NSW. I wish I knew what she was holding in her hand. There were a few Madame Coras in the late 1800s, early 1900s. This one was Cora de Lamond (a stage name); she was the only known lone ‘lady’ stage magician in the world at the time. Other magic-women were usually stage assistants or in a husband-and-wife-acts. Madame Cora had a mesmerism (hypnosis) act and did sleight of hand magic.

This photo was taken in a Ballarat studio, probably in the 1870s, about the time Ballarat officials charged her with running illegal raffles due to her gift-giving during performances. She awarded 'door prizes’ to members of the audience including full crockery sets, tins of sardines, hankies and bags of flour. She was also falsely accused in Australian newspapers of going berserk with jealousy and strangling her touring company’s soprano in South Africa in 1877.

She was not the palmist Madame Cora married to a sword swallower charged with impersonating a bushranger in Rockhampton in 1902, or the Madame Cora aka Mrs Brown, a husband-stealing abortionist posing as a palmist in Adelaide the same year, or Madame Sybil aka Cora Lister assistant/wife of Chris Van Bern, a huckster magician and quick change artiste. Just to clear that up.