The secret identity of a masked street singer from the 1896 short story "The Masked Singer" in Miss Ayr of Virginia, & other stories by Julia Magruder. She was classically trained, but her career was ruined before it started by "throat trouble." She sings in the street to earn money for her daughter's musical education. Mrs. May passes away before the end of the story, but her daughter Bianca May goes on to have a triumphant singing debut.
Protagonist Edward Randall thinks the masked singer is his beautiful neighbor Bianca May, whom he's falling for. He can't reconcile her beauty with the weird edge in her singing, so he's glad when he discovers the masked street singer was actually Bianca's mother.
It was a woman's voice, singing a popular air in a manner so finished and correct that the method of it startled him with surprise and appreciation, even while the voice itself repelled him. He listened intently to every note. What was the matter with this voice ? It was that of a thoroughly trained and practiced singer, and yet it seemed as if, in some way, it had been hurt. The low notes were hard and husky, the high notes were thin and weak. All of this might be accounted for by some disastrous illness or throat trouble, but even while he made this allowance, there was something in the quality, or character, or individuality of the voice, itself, even when singing the middle notes, which caused no strain, that stung the man who listened with a sharp pang of disappointment a certain quality of hardness, even commonness, which was the direct contradiction of that fair and sensitive young face.
She had once possessed a superb voice, herself, it seemed, and had received the most perfect and thorough training in a great European conservatoire, being herself an Italian, but before she had sung in public at all, a severe attack of throat trouble had ruined her voice forever, and she had come to America to give lessons, and in a southern town had met and married her husband. Then had begun a long life of vicissitudes of various kinds, culminating in the street-singing performances, a necessity to which they had been reduced, at last, by positive want. In this way she had eked out the little that she could make by taking pupils at a small price, and by the little jobs of writing and bookkeeping which the man himself could get, until the time should be ripe for her daughter's debut.
Mrs. May's first name is not given.