Virginia Katherine McMath was born on July 16, 1911 in Independence, Missouri. Her nickname, "Ginger," originated from her younger cousin Helen who pronounced "Virginia" as "Ginja." Family and friends continued to call her this, and later theatre men who understood the name to be "Ginger" billed her as such on their marquees.
Those who knew her as a little girl often said that Ginger could dance before she could walk. At the age of 10, she was appearing at local charity shows, celebrations and lodge meetings with her stepfather, "Daddy John," whose last name, Rogers, she eventually borrowed.
Going on tour
At the age of 14, young Ginger won the Texas State Charleston Championship. Her prize was four weeks of appearances in four Texas cities on the Interstate Theatre Circuit. She chose two red-headed Charleston dancers, and billed the act "Ginger and the Redheads." The performances continued well beyond their four-week engagement when Junior Orpheum sent the trio on an extensive tour across the western United States.
When the show reached Chicago, a famous vaudeville act stole the redheaded dancers, and Ginger found herself doing a single for the Skouras Brothers at their Ambassador Theatre in St. Louis. She continued for 28 weeks, with a new act each week, using the Master of Ceremonies as her straight man.
When Paul Ash invited her to appear with his band at the Oriental Theatre, Ginger left St. Louis and traveled to Chicago. After performing for nearly four months with Ash, ...