Known primarily for her powerful voice and roles in musical theatre, she has been called “the undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage.”
Merman was born Ethel Agnes Zimmermann on January 16, 1908 Astoria, Queens, New York City. Her father, Edward Zimmermann (1879–1977), was an accountant with James H. Dunham & Company, a Manhattan wholesale dry-goods company, and her mother, Agnes (née Gardner; 1883–1974), was a school teacher.
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