Holyoke's Parsons Hall, where Tanguay made her humble debut at amateur nights as a young girl, wearing several knit chair-throws and the fabric of an old umbrella as her dress:30
Eva Tanguay was born in 1878 in Marbleton, Quebec. Her father was a doctor. Before she reached the age of six, her family moved from Quebec's Eastern Townships to Holyoke, Massachusetts. Her father died soon after. While still a child she developed an interest in the performing arts, making her first appearance on stage at the age of eight, circa 1886, at an amateur night in Holyoke. In her earliest days she was promoted through a small theater company operated by one Paul C. Winkelmann, a successful 16-year old multi-instrumentalist who lived next door to her family, and used his influence to give a testimonial benefit show for her at the Holyoke Opera House, a venue which she would return to years later after establishing her own act.
Two years later, she was touring professionally with a production of a stage adaptation of the popular Frances Hodgson Burnett novel Little Lord Fauntleroy. Tanguay eventually landed a spot in the Broadway musical My Lady in 1901. The 1904 show The Chaperons led to her rise in popularity. By 1905, she was also performing in vaudeville as a solo act, where she would spend much of the remainder of her career.