She was one of the most prominent Jazz and Blues singer of the 20’s and at the peak of her career, her troupe criss-crossed the U.S. in a custom railroad car.
She was also openly bisexual.
A story recounted by Ruby Smith, a back-up performer:
“Three girls, myself, and one gay fellow. We all got to drinking and having this ball and all the sudden Bessie said, ‘Oh shit, stop all this motherfucking around and let’s get naked and be ourselves.’ Well, we had one full-size bed and everybody got in that bed. Talk about knowing what to do, there was three girls, and Bessie and I and the landlady — that’s six. Do you know that cat went through the whole crowd? And got up and walked like a man! She said, ‘I’ve had my ball, now I’m gonna call up my husband.’”