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Annie Jones toured with P.T. Barnum's circus in the 19th century.

A bearded lady or bearded woman is a woman who has the ability to grow a visible beard. These women have long been a phenomenon of legend, curiosity, or ridicule.

Contents

BackgroundEdit

A relatively small number of women are able to grow enough facial hair to have a distinct beard. In some cases, female beard growth is the result of a hormonal imbalance (usually androgen excess), or a rare genetic disorder known as hypertrichosis.[1] In some cases a woman’s ability to grow a beard can be due to hereditary reasons without anything medically being wrong.[2]

There are numerous references to bearded women throughout the centuries, and Shakespeare also mentioned them in Macbeth: “you should be Women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret, That you are so”. (138–46; 1.3. 37–45) However, there are no known productions of Macbeth which include bearded witches. [3]

Sometimes it is caused by use of anabolic steroids. Cultural pressure leads most to remove it, as it may be viewed as a social stigma.

The “bearded lady” is a cliché—a staple of a carnival sideshow.

RaceEdit

Darwin’s ideas on sexual selection that influenced the perception of women with excess facial hair were applied differently across race. Black women who had excess facial hair were actually perceived as evidence of human’s evolution from apes, whereas white women with excess facial hair were perceived as diseased. A beard on a white woman only challenged her sex, whereas a beard on a black woman challenged her species. [4]

Some famous bearded women were Krao Farini[5] and Julia Pastrana.[6]

EntertainmentEdit

Notable exceptions were the famous bearded ladies of the circus sideshows of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Barnum's Josephine Clofullia and Ringling Bros.' Jane Barnell, whose anomalies were celebrated.[citation needed] Sometimes circus and carnival freak shows presented bearded ladies who were actually women with facial wigs or bearded men dressed as women, both practices being lampooned by comedian and former circus performer W.C. Fields in the 1939 film, You Can't Cheat an Honest Man.[7]

Notable women with beardsEdit

 
Magdalena Ventura, portrait by Jusepe de Ribera (1631)

12th centuryEdit

14th centuryEdit

16th centuryEdit

17th centuryEdit

19th centuryEdit

20th centuryEdit

21st centuryEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Taylor, Sarah K (June 18, 2009). "Congenital Hypertrichosis Lanuginosa". Emedicine. Medscape. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  2. ^ Hamlin, Kimberly A. (2011). "The "Case of a Bearded Woman": Hypertrichosis and the Construction of Gender in the Age of Darwin". American Quarterly. 63 (4): 955–981. doi:10.1353/aq.2011.0051. ISSN 1080-6490.
  3. ^ Shopland, Norena 'A wonder of nature' from Forbidden Lives: LGBT stories from Wales, Seren Books, 2017
  4. ^ Hamlin, Kimberly A. (2011). "The "Case of a Bearded Woman": Hypertrichosis and the Construction of Gender in the Age of Darwin". American Quarterly. 63 (4): 955–981. doi:10.1353/aq.2011.0051. ISSN 1080-6490.
  5. ^ Hamlin, Kimberly A. (2011). "The "Case of a Bearded Woman": Hypertrichosis and the Construction of Gender in the Age of Darwin". American Quarterly. 63 (4): 955–981. doi:10.1353/aq.2011.0051. ISSN 1080-6490.
  6. ^ Trainor, Sean (2014). "Fair Bosom/Black Beard: Facial Hair, Gender Determination, and the Strange Career of Madame Clofullia, "Bearded Lady"". Early American Studies. 12: 548–575 – via ProQuest.
  7. ^ Deschner, Donald (1966). The Films of W.C. Fields. New York: Cadillac Publishing by arrangement with The Citadel Press. p. 139. Introduction by Arthur Knight

External linksEdit