Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan was born in Waco, Texas, on January 12,1884. As you might have guessed by her name, she was born Catholic. Her parents, Bessie and Michael, were recently arrived immigrants from Ireland. They were rather old-fashioned, and kept a fairly tight rein on their daughters. Young Mary was given a parochial school education and sang in the church choir. But Mary always wanted to be a performer. Initially, she tried rodeo, touring under the nickname "Texas." Yes, she really could ride and rope! While on the road, she met and (briefly) married a fellow named John Moynahan.
Apparently marriage did not agree with her: She ran off to New York City as soon as she could, and by 1906 had a modest career going as a Broadway singer. She sang cheery little numbers like "Pansies Bring Me Thoughts of You." But her greatest career move came in 1917, when a movie talent scout lured her to the West coast.