Fitzgerald's birth parents both died when she was a child; she never knew her father and her mother died about 1935. Some sources state that she earlier ran away from her abusive step-father and lived on the streets. After her mother's death she was placed in an orphanage.
In 1934 she won her first talent contest, at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem. She was "discovered" by Chick Webb, who was looking for a new singer, and he and his wife then fostered and eventually legally adopted her. Webb died in 1939. Soon she was one of the most celebrated singers and Black women in the world. In later life she suffered seriously from diabetes; in 1993 both legs were amputated because of its effects.
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