9. Julia Pastrana
The story of Julia Pastrana is one of the saddest, most heartrending tales of abuse and dehumanization in the history of showbiz.
Born in 1834 in Mexico, Pastrana was variously referred to as the “ape woman,” “bear woman,” “baboon woman,” or “the ugliest woman in the world” due to her uncommon features and hairy face and body. She has been posthumously diagnosed with generalized hypertrichosis lanuginosa, which accounted for all the extra hair, as well as gingival hyperplasia, which made her lips and gums thick and protruding.
Pastrana was an incredibly intelligent and accomplished woman. She spoke three languages, and she could dance and sing opera with great skill. Plucked from a Mexican orphanage by the governor of Sinaloa, she was taken to New York to perform. Soon, she had a manager and was touring the world.
For six short years, she was the anti-belle of the ball, her accomplishments and skills made all the more incredible to the awed audiences due to their perceptions of her appearance. She married her manager and was soon pregnant with his child. The child inherited her hypertrichosis but died soon after birth. She soon followed him, dying five days later of complications from the birth at only 26.
Her husband then proceeded to display the taxidermied bodies of his wife and child as if they were mere museum exhibits rather than people.
8. Josephine Clofullia
Josephine Boisdechen was born in 1831 in Switzerland. She had hair all over her body at birth, and by the age of two, she had a full beard. Not sure what to do with their daughter, her well-meaning parents sent her to boarding school, where both her education and her beard both grew substantially.
Josephine began to exhibit herself with her father as her agent. She met a heavily bearded man named Fortune Clofullia, and they married. Subsequently, Josephine Clofullia became a mother. Her first child died, but her second, a son, survived and also displayed a lovely beard, even as an infant.
Josephine started working with P.T. Barnum, along with her hirsute son. She was famously party to a court case where it was alleged that she was a fraud and was, in fact, male. Madame Clofullia most definitely was not and was defended by three doctors, who assured the court that she was a woman.
Josephine Clofullia’s later years have been lost to history, but they must have been better than the life of Julia Pastrana.