Flo Irwin, c.1895
Nibot, Photographer
Media Type
Item Type
A black and white portrait of Flo Irwin.
Flo Irwin was the sister of May Irwin, a broadway performer born in Whitby, Ontario.

May Irwin was a Canadian singer, songwriter, and comic performer who enjoyed popularity and prestige on the American stage from the late 1890s until the end of the 1910s. Key to Irwin’s popularity was her role as a “coon-shouter” and a performer of “coon songs,” deeply racist forms that emerge from minstrel musical traditions and blackface performances. Irwin’s considerable success was achieved via her reproduction of hate speech—speech which contributed to the oppression and death of many black persons in North America. For more information on Irwin’s life and her hate speech, see the following link: https://www.archeion.ca/campbell-georgina-may-1862-1938

Archives at Whitby Public Library maintains a collection of Irwin’s sheet music and associated ephemera. The sheet music in this archive is hate speech. The sheet music represents some of the most popular music of Irwin’s time, and as such constitutes important evidence of the anti-black racist and white supremacist ideologies that impacted and continue to influence Canada and America today. These ideologies are not condoned by Archives at Whitby Public Library, but the Archives has preserved such records in the hopes that, by encountering them, people will begin to think critically about and challenge historical and current racism.
Date of Original
Width: 3.5 cm
Height: 12 cm
Image Dimensions
Image Width: 3.5cm
Image Height: 12cm
Local identifier
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.88342 Longitude: -78.93287
Copyright Statement
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to Canadian copyright law. No restrictions on use.
Reproduction Notes
Scanned from a copy negative.
Whitby Public Library
Agency street/mail address:

405 Dundas Street West, Whitby, Ontario L1N 6A1

For inquires about any newspaper content please contact askreference@whitbylibrary.ca

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Flo Irwin, c.1895

A black and white portrait of Flo Irwin.