Victorian spectacle: Julia Pastrana, the bearded and hairy female

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Julia Pastrana toured Europe in the late 1850s advertising herself as the 'Bearded and hairy Lady' or 'Nonedescript'. She suffered from a rare inherited disorder, not understood until the late 20th century, which manifested itself in facial distortion and considerable facial hair in the male pattern. Doctors, as well as sensation seekers, were very keen to examine her. Her story is unusual, not least because she was mummified after death by her husband-manager and continued to tour as a mounted exhibit for a number of decades. Indirectly, she participated in the evolutionary debate in Britain. In 1857, when she arrived in Britain from America, she was popularly known as the baboon-woman. When Darwin's Origin of Species was published, and evolutionary controversy about ape-ancestry was hot in the air, she was more often likened to the gorilla or orang-utan - as a possible specimen of a missing link.

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... Ivan Sokolov's role in the history of Julia Pastrana was a critical one. His study provided rare data about Pastrana and thereby contributed to the development of anatomical and histological science (Browne and Messenger, 2003). The unusual hairiness of Pastrana's body and her deformed lower jaw, with protruding large teeth (which Sokolov's examination revealed had been caused by a tumor of the jaw) led many to speculate about her origins and interpret her as an animal-human hybrid. ...
In this article we document the role of Ivan Matveevich Sokolov, anatomy professor at Moscow University, in the mummification of Julia Pastrana, born in Mexico (afterwards an American citizen by marriage), and her son. Sokolov had investigated and described the corpse of this famous “hairy woman” as an example of a congenital anomaly of the genus Homo. Due to the art of Sokolov’s embalming, the mummies of Julia and her son were presented to the scientific world, which made it possible to study similar cases of deformity in the human population. However, the historical role of Sokolov was not limited to his study of a congenital disease. His thorough postmortem examination and description of Pastrana’s and her son’s bodies allowed Sokolov to make an indirect contribution to evolutionary thought. Sokolov’s confirmation that Pastrana belonged to the genus Homo refuted all speculation about her hybrid origins and status as a missing link in the evolution of apes into humans.
... Julia Pastrana entered history as one of the most extreme and earliest reported cases of this condition and, unfortunately after her death in 1860 her body was regularly exhibited in a number of shows until the second half of the 20 th century. With monikers such as the 'Victorian Ape Woman', the 'Non-descript', the 'Bear Woman', the 'Bearded Lady', 'The Ugliest Woman in the World' and described by Darwin [9] as 'a Spanish dancer, [who] was a remarkably fine woman, but she had a thick masculine beard and a hairy forehead', she laid in a mortuary at the Institute of Forensic Medicine, Oslo, since the mid 1970s with attempts in the 1990s to rebury her [10,11]. So, What happened to the body of Julia Pastrana? ...
The image of the prehistoric hominin is well known: brutish and hairy, the men hunt with impressive weapons, while women tend to children or kneel over a hide. In this article I consider didactic illustrations and re-creations of human relatives in the context of science and art. I argue that these images are laden with symbolic sociopolitical meanings and are heavily biased by not only the newest scientific findings but also ideas about gender roles and civilization/civility in popular culture. Artistic representation in educational materials tends to reflect popular conceptions of ancestral life, more than data-dependent interpretations. For example, there is a bias against artistic depictions of women, children or the elderly and activities typically associated with them. Men and male activities – particularly hunting – are overrepresented. Hairy bodies, stooped posture, acute facial angles, savagery and a lack of material culture function as a symbol of incivility or animality. They are used to code an individual as being sufficiently inhuman to create a comfortable separation between viewer and ‘caveman’, which ultimately reflects our ambiguous relationship to human evolution.
There is fascination with the bright lights and high-risk stunts of circus performances which originated in 18th century Paris. The idea began as a way to display the impressive horsemanship skills of trick-riders. In London, England, former cavalry Sergeant-Major Philip Astley (1742–1814) created a grand performance of horseback riders by adding several unique acts to distinguish his show. Astley's original riding school, which would later become his circus, is seen in Fig. 1. By 1782, the Amphitheatre Anglais could boast of performances by acrobats, jugglers, gymnasts, and tight-rope walkers. Since then, the circus, as it became known, has developed worldwide. With its development, several unanticipated occurrences have followed, including several dermatologic conditions. High physical demands on circus performers and close physical contact who lead to cellulitis, pyoderma, callosities and various other soft tissue manifestations. Some members of the circus family were chosen for their genetic and acquired abnormalities, the more grotesque the more sought after.
Julia Pastrana, known as ‘The Ape Woman’, was one of the most famous freaks in the Victorian age. Affected with hypertrichosis terminalis (since her body and her face were covered with black hair), Pastrana performed in tours in Europe and North America. She was reputed as a ‘bodily deviant’ creature in a society that structured its social, political and cultural discourses upon the notion of a ‘stable’ (female) body and identity. By reflecting on the notions of memory and forgetting, this chapter focuses on the ways in which Pastrana’s biography has been rewritten by Marco Ferreri in his movie La donna scimmia (1964), by Sandra Olson and Julian Fenech in their novel Julia Pastrana (2007), by Rosie Garland in The Palace of Curiosities (2013), and finally by Carol Birch in Orphans of the Carnival (2016).
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Durante o complexo desenvolvimento humano, diversos fenômenos anômalos podem ocorrer, resultando em indivíduos com aparências atípicas. Devido à curiosidade, misticismo, fascínio e até mesmo repulsa expressos por diversas populações ao longo da história, surgiu o grande mercado dos freak shows. Estes foram eventos circenses, que predominaram durante os séculos XIX e XX, em diversos países, que apresentavam indivíduos com aspectos fenotípicos divergentes para fins não somente informativos, mas também de entretenimento. Com a ascensão do conhecimento científico, hoje se conhece boa parte das bases genotípicas que determinam a ocorrência de manifestações que cursam com aparências que levavam indivíduos a serem taxados de "monstros" ou "aberrações". Neste trabalho, objetiva-se elencar os principais fenótipos associados aos freak shows, considerando seus aspectos históricos, sociais, hipóteses diagnósticas e as características genético-moleculares associadas. Foram realizadas buscas sem limites temporais nas bases de dados virtuais PubMed, Scielo, assim como Portal Capes e, devido à escassez de informações acerca do tema, foram incluídos como fontes de pesquisa livros-texto e websites. Desse modo, foram encontradas doenças que cursam com fenótipos pertinentes, bem como relatos de indivíduos com diversos diagnósticos diferenciais e outros para os quais hipóteses não foram encontradas. Abstract During the complex process of human development, a range of different anomalies may arise, resulting in individuals with atypical appearances. Based on curiosity, legend, fascination and even revulsion expressed by different groups throughout history, there arose a significant market for freak shows. These were circus-type events, which were common during the 19 th and early 20 th centuries in various countries, presenting individuals with divergent features with a view not only to being informative, but also for entertainment. With increased scientific knowledge, we can now
Défi de l’homme lancé à la mort, le cadavre momifié soulève un certain nombre de questions psychanalytiques. Son potentiel spectaculaire a fait la fortune des momies égyptiennes dans l’Angleterre victorienne. Objet érotique et macabre, la momie est aussi un fétiche impérial, et apparaît dans la littérature puis sur les écrans comme une figure de la vengeance et du mal.
This article explores women's lived experiences with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) on the basis of semi-structured interviews with 21 Danish women. It provides insights about the problems that they experienced and how they coped with PCOS. The interviews revealed that they were highly influenced by society's femininity norms. Many of them perceived their bodies as “different” because of the symptoms of PCOS, namely hirsutism. They used different strategies to live up to body ideals and cope with the symptoms. However, hirsutism had a decisive negative influence on the women's everyday lives, particularly with regard to male partners and sexual relations.
Disability Studies is an area of study which examines social, political, cultural, and economic factors that define 'disability' and establish personal and collective responses to difference. This insightful new text will introduce readers to the discipline of Disability Studies and enable them to engage in the lively debates within the field. By offering an accessible yet rigorous approach to Disability Studies, the authors provide a critical analysis of key current issues and consider ways in which the subject can be studied through national and international perspectives, policies, culture and history. Key debates include: • The relationship between activism and the academy • Ways to study cultural and media representations of disability • The importance of disability history and how societies can change • National and international perspectives on children, childhood and education • Political perspectives on disability and identity • The place of the body in disability theory This text offers real-world examples of topics that are important to debates and offers a much needed truly international scope on the questions at hand. It is an essential read for any individual studying, practising or with an interest in Disability Studies.
In 1847, during the great age of the freak show, the British periodical Punch bemoaned the public's "prevailing taste for deformity." This vividly detailed work argues that far from being purely exploitative, displays of anomalous bodies served a deeper social purpose as they generated popular and scientific debates over the meanings attached to bodily difference. Nadja Durbach examines freaks both well-known and obscure including the Elephant Man; "Lalloo, the Double-Bodied Hindoo Boy," a set of conjoined twins advertised as half male, half female; Krao, a seven-year-old hairy Laotian girl who was marketed as Darwin's "missing link" the "Last of the Mysterious Aztecs" and African "Cannibal Kings," who were often merely Irishmen in blackface. Upending our tendency to read late twentieth-century conceptions of disability onto the bodies of freak show performers, Durbach shows that these spectacles helped to articulate the cultural meanings invested in otherness--and thus clarified what it meant to be British-at a key moment in the making of modern and imperial ideologies and identities.
In this first-ever examination of Charles Darwin's sketches, drawings, and illustrations, Julia Voss presents the history of evolutionary theory told in pictures. Darwin had a life-long interest in pictorial representations of nature, sketching out his evolutionary theory and related ideas for over forty years. Voss details the pictorial history of Darwin's theory of evolution, starting with his notebook sketches of 1837 and ending with the illustrations in The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). These images were profoundly significant for Darwin's long-term argument for evolutionary theory; each characterizes a different aspect of his relationship with the visual information and constitutes what can be called an "icon' of evolution. Voss shows how Darwin "thought with his eyes' and how his pictorial representations and the development and popularization of the theory of evolution were vitally interconnected. Voss explores four of Darwin's images in depth, and weaves about them a story on the development and presentation of Darwin's theory, in which she also addresses the history of Victorian illustration, the role of images in science, the technologies of production, and the relationship between specimen, words, and images.
The opening of this vital new book centers on a series of graves memorializing baboons killed near Amboseli National Park in Kenya in 2009--a stark image that emphasizes both the close emotional connection between primate researchers and their subjects and the intensely human qualities of the animals. Primates in the Real World goes on to trace primatology's shift from short-term expeditions designed to help overcome centuries-old myths to the field's arrival as a recognized science sustained by a complex web of international collaborations. Considering a series of pivotal episodes spanning the twentieth century, Georgina Montgomery shows how individuals both within and outside of the scientific community gradually liberated themselves from primate folklore to create primate science. Achieved largely through a movement from the lab to the field as the primary site of observation, this development reflected an urgent and ultimately extremely productive reassessment of what constitutes "natural" behavior for primates. An important contribution to the history of science and of women's roles in science, as well as to animal studies and the exploration of the animal-human boundary, Montgomery's engagingly written narrative provides the general reader with the most accessible overview to date of this enduringly fascinating field of study. © 2015 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. All rights reserved.
Male-like hair growth and masculinization of women and the ambiguity of genders has fascinated mankind for millennia, frequently appearing in mythology and the arts. The earliest reports of androgen excess, beginning 400 years BC, focused on the appearance of male-like hair growth and features in women, often accompanied by menstrual cessation. The first etiologies identified as a cause of androgenization in the female were adrenal disorders, primarily adrenocortical neoplasms, but also eventually adrenal hyperplasia. The first report of a patient with nonclassic adrenal hyperplasia (NCAH) was made in 1957. The Achard-Thiers syndrome, which was originally reported in 1921 and was felt to primarily affect postmenopausal women, included the development of diabetes mellitus, hirsutism, and menstrual irregularity or amenorrhea in conjunction with adrenocortical disease. Androgen production by the ovary was not recognized until the early 1900s, with the first case of a patient with glucose intolerance, hirsutism, and ovarian pathology reported by Tuffier in 1914. As early as the mid-18th century, the presence of sclerocystic or multicystic ovaries was recognized, although this pathology was felt to be primarily associated with pelvic pain and/or menorrhagia. It was not until the seminal report of Drs. Stein and Leventhal of 1935 that the association of polycystic ovaries and amenorrhea, and possibly obesity and/or hirsutism, was noted. Subsequent investigations have elucidated the ovarian source of the androgens the gonadotropic abnormalities, the insulin resistance, and the high prevalence of the disorder, currently known as the polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This syndrome was initially treated by ovarian wedge resection, but subsequent ovulatory therapies, including clomiphene citrate, menopausal gonadotropins, and most recently insulin sensitizers, have replaced this surgery as the treatment of choice for fertility improvement in PCOS. Notwithstanding, laparoscopic ovarian drilling retains a place in our current therapeutic armamentarium for these patients.
In 2002, Gunther von Hagens's display of plastinated corpses opened in London. Although the public was fascinated by Body Worlds, the media largely castigated the exhibition by dismissing it as a resuscitated Victorian freak show. By using the freak show analogy, the British press expressed their moral objection to this type of bodily display. But Body Worlds and nineteenth-century displays of human anomalies were linked in more complex and telling ways as both attempted to be simultaneously entertaining and educational. This essay argues that these forms of corporeal exhibitionism are both examples of the dynamic relationship between the popular and professional cultures of the body that we often erroneously think of as separate and discrete. By reading Body Worlds against the Victorian freak show, I seek to generate a fuller understanding of the historical and enduring relationship between exhibitionary culture and the discourses of science, and thus to argue that the scientific and the spectacular have been, and clearly continue to be, symbiotic modes of generating bodily knowledge.
This text draws attention to former ideologies of the scientific hero in order to explore the leading features of Charles Darwin's fame, both during his lifetime and beyond. Emphasis is laid on the material record of celebrity, including popular mementoes, statues and visual images. Darwin's funeral in Westminster Abbey and the main commemorations and centenary celebrations, as well as the opening of Down House as a museum in 1929, are discussed and the changing agendas behind each event outlined. It is proposed that common-place assumptions about Darwin's commitment to evidence, his impartiality and hard work contributed substantially to his rise to celebrity in the emerging domain of professional science in Britain. History of Science Version of Record
Julia Pastrana (1834-1860) has gained immortality as one of the most extreme cases of generalized hypertrichosis upon record. When she was exhibited for money in the United States and Europe during the years 1855-1860, people thronged to see her, and she was several times described in the medical press of the day. After Julia Pastrana's death in childbirth, her corpse was embalmed in a very life-like manner, and exhibited all over Europe for several decades. Later, the mummy was believed to be lost, but in 1990 it was discovered at the Oslo Forensic Institute. Some writers have included Julia Pastrana among the cases of congenital hypertrichosis languinosa. However, a microscopic examination of hair samples from the mummy shows that her hairy growth is unmistakably terminal in character, and we propose that she instead was an example of congenital, generalized hypertrichosis terminalis with associated gingival hyperplasia. While many earlier writers have asserted that Julia Pastrana's dentition was abnormal, a radiographic examination of the mummy has shown that she had a complete permanent dentition.
Curiosities of Natural History The Shows of London Julia Pastrana, the Nondescript: An Example of congenital, generalized hypertrichosis terminalis with gingival hyperplasia
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Anon (1860) Account of Miss Pastrana, the nondescript and the double-bodied boy, E. Hancock. Buckland, F. (1868) Curiosities of Natural History, Macmillan Altick, R. (1978) The Shows of London, Belnap Press Bondeson, J. and Miles, A.E.W. (1993) Julia Pastrana, the Nondescript: An Example of congenital, generalized hypertrichosis terminalis with gingival hyperplasia. American Journal of Medical Genetics 47, 198 – 212
Julia Pastrana: the bearded lady A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities, I.B. Taurus Fig. 4. Punch Cartoon 1861. Cartoons such as this flourished after the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859. Reproduced with permission from The Wellcome Library
  • A E W Miles
  • J Bondesen
Miles, A.E.W. (1973) Julia Pastrana: the bearded lady. Proceedings of the Royal College of Medicine 67, 8–12 Bondesen, J. (1997) A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities, I.B. Taurus Fig. 4. Punch Cartoon 1861. Cartoons such as this flourished after the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859. Reproduced with permission from The Wellcome Library, London. Review Endeavour Vol.27 No.4 December 2003
A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities
  • J Bondesen
Bondesen, J. (1997) A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities, I.B. Taurus Fig. 4. Punch Cartoon 1861. Cartoons such as this flourished after the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859. Reproduced with permission from The Wellcome Library, London.
1857) A short account of the bearded and hairy female
  • J Z Laurence
Laurence, J.Z. (1857) A short account of the bearded and hairy female. The Lancet 70, 48
Account of Miss Pastrana, the nondescript and the doublebodied boy
Anon (1860) Account of Miss Pastrana, the nondescript and the doublebodied boy, E. Hancock.
Anon (1860) Account of Miss Pastrana, the nondescript and the double-bodied boy
  • E Hancock
A short account of the bearded and hairy female
  • Laurence
1868) Curiosities of Natural History
  • F Buckland