Grace, Jeanie, Mitzi

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Grace, Jeanie & Mitzi
Grace, Jeanie and Mitzi

Flyers Grace, Jeanie and Mitzi

Mitzi started her career in the barn of her Georgia farm with her younger sister Eva. They made a makeshift trapeze from a broom handle and suspended it from the loft with rope. Mitzi and Eva performed double trapeze together until 1923 when Eva married Emmett and left the act. Mitzi soon met and married catcher Red Sleeter, considered to have been one of the best in the business. In addition to the many American circuses she performed with, Mitzi also toured Australia with the Flying Devards and Flying Fishes. Mitzi performed well into her fifties. She shared her retirement with her second husband, Murray Fine who also toured with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.


Grace was the youngest of the sisters. She spent most of her career with Ringling Brothers. She was married to catcher Harold “Tuffy” Genders, who she first met in high school in Bloomington, Illinois. After a relatively short career due to an injury, Grace and Tuffy retired from the ring. Tuffy became General Manager of Ringling. Grace, Mitzi and Eva performed with some of the best in the business over many decades. They always enjoyed visiting with each other, reliving their wonderful memories of circus and friends. Simply stated, Mitzi, Grace and Eva were Joey’s inspiration to fly through the air with the greatest of ease.


Jeanie Sleeter, Mitzi’s daughter, was always around the circus. She started riding ponies in spec at age eight. Jeanie learned to fly on the trapeze in the fabled trapeze barns of Bloomington, Illinois where her mother, her relatives and countless circus greats learned and practiced the craft. Jeanie toured with Russell Brothers, Clyde Beatty and others, but she spent the most time, twelve years, with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Jeanie worked with many circus greats, counting many of them as personal friends. Her favorites were catcher Dick Anderson and leapers Faye Alexander and Willie Krause. Jeanie will be best remembered flying with the Flying Comets. Her favorite and most daring trick was a two and a half, being caught by her legs. The next time you watch Betty Hutton performing in The Greatest Show on Earth, you’ll see Mitzi doing the non close-up trapeze work.

 Other Circus Relatives
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Emmett Kelly        Emmett Kelly Jr.        Eva Kelly Lewis         Joe Lewis

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Last modified: 06/07/12