5. Jane Barnell
Jane Barnell rose to lasting fame in her role as a bearded lady in the 1932 movie Freaks.
Jane was sold to a circus by her mother at the age of four, when her father was away on a business trip. That circus soon left for Europe. She was dumped in an orphanage in Germany when she became ill. Somehow, her father found and rescued her when she was five.
Despite this unfortunate start in show business, as an adult, Jane went back to performing and was touted as having the longest beard at the time of any bearded woman, at a length of 33 centimeters (13 in). She performed under the names Lady Olga, Madame Olga, and Lady Olga Roderick. She performed on the trapeze until a railroad accident ended her trapeze career. Then she became a commercial photographer.
Jane Barnell was married several times and had two children, whom she outlived. She was not happy with the portrayal of the people in Freaks and was disappointed with her role in the movie.
4. Vivian Wheeler
Vivian Wheeler was born in 1948. Unlike the other women in this list, Vivian was born intersex and had operations to change her genitals to reflect a more traditionally female presentation.
While her mother loved Vivian, her father just wanted the money he could make from her. From the age of five, young Vivian worked the sideshows and sent money home for most of the year. On tour, she was taken under the wing of older bearded ladies, while at home, she was forced to shave. She did not like being forced to change herself by shaving.
As she grew, Vivian changed her name to Malinda Maxey and became a person of great faith. She was married twice and had two more long-term relationships with men, despite not being exclusive in her attraction to men.
Vivian is now retired and is the mother of one son, whom she gave up for adoption at a young age. She reconnected with him on The Maury Povich Show.