Quiz #34 Answer - November 3, 2005

Is the person on the left a man or a woman?
What was his/her job?
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Submitted by Dale Niesen.
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The person on the left is a woman.
Jane Devere worked as the bearded lady for several circuses
around the turn of the 20th century.
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Madame Devere (1842 - June 18, 1912)

Jane Devere was born in Brooksville, Kentucky. In 1884 Jane worked for Sells
Brothers and was featured as a side show attraction "a bearded lady.".  That year she
had her beard measured and supposedly it was 14 inches. She married sideshow
manager J. W. Devere. In 1906 she worked for Campbell Brothers Circus and in 1908
for Yankee Robinson Show. She died of a heart attack in Oelwein, IA, age 57, while
with the Patterson Carnival Co.

The man on the right was probably her husband J. W. Devere.

For a mini-bio of other circus performers, see the link to William L. Stout's Olympians
of the Sawdust Circle on the Circus Historical Society website at:

Special note from Alice Fairhurst:

I believe I recognize the Bearded Lady. My late husband was descended from a Sells
and the Sells brothers also had a circus.  We have one of their posters when they were
the Sells-Floto Circus. As a family we went to the Circus museum in Texas to do
research on the family and had fun learning a lot about circuses. Can't remember if the
Bearded Lady was with Ringling Brothers or Barnum and Bailey. If I were home, I'd
have the full answer with lots more details on this one.
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A Long History

There is a long tradition of bearded ladies in
American sideshows and dime museums. At the
turn of the century, bearded ladies like Annie
Jones, Lady Olga, Madame Devere and
Princess Gracie were among the most popular
exhibits. Bearded ladies along with Asians,
African Americans, fat people, paraplegics, two
headed fetuses and "other ways of looking that
weren't traditional, white and Protestant," says
Ms. Miller (a student of circus and sideshow
history), "were another way to allow people to
feel superior, less existentially lost."
Traditionally, bearded ladies were presented as
the epitome of femininity. They wore elegant
dresses, their hair was done in fashionable style.
Gawkers at sideshows could congratulate
themselves that at least they weren't freaks, too.
Ms. Jennifer Miller
Founder of Circus Amok

The New York Times
Friday, June 9, 1995
For mini-bios and pictures of several famous bearded ladies
Annie Jones
Sidonia de Barcs
Madame DeLait
see http://www.missioncreep.com/mundie/gallery/gallery2.htm. Especially interesting is
the mini-bio of the Baroness, a member of the Hungarian aristocracy who grew a beard
shortly after the birth of her son, Nicu. Nicu was a midget, and the family eventually
left Hungary and wound up touring with several of the most well-known American
Charles Eisenmann
Charles Eisenmann was a photographer based in the Bowery in New York City who
was famous for taking photos of "Side Show "Freaks". His photo of Jane Devere was
taken around 1878.
The Ronald G. Becker Collection of Charles Eisenmann Photographs
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
This collection of 1412 images can be accessed via the Library's CONTENTdm server
and is fully searchable by keyword, subject, and image number. The item level
inventory of the collection (in Excel) can help with formulating searches and sorting.
The collection contains some fascinating photos of midgets, giants, obese men,  
women, and children, and other human oddities.

There are also a few of Mr. Eisenmann photos on the website of the Disability History
Museum at:

There is a book on Mr. Eisenmann by Michael Mitchell called
Monsters, Human Freaks
in America's Gilded Age: The Photographs of Chas. Eisenmann
. It is available from
Amazon.com at:
There are many other interesting links, including:

Prodigies: Anomalous Humans by James G. Mundie
Notes from our readers:

Susan Edminster:

The person on the left is Madam Jane Devere, a Bearded Lady in one of the Side Shows
(or Freak Shows) at Coney Island. I didn't read anything indicating that Madam Devere
wasn't a woman, but you must admit she really does look like a man.  Too bad we can't
see if there's an Adam's Apple.

Betty Ware:

This is a man, and his job was as a stand in or double for the lady who was in the play.

Tonya Dillon:

I think she was a woman with a hormone or medical condition which made her grow
hair on her face and maybe other parts of her body like a man, and I think she was in
the circus or maybe another type of "freak show" or that type of career.

Charles Nienhaus:

A man dressed as a woman. Actor.
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Bobbie Sims        Carol Haueter
Judy Cook        Sinika Garey
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Joan Nacoste            Charlotte Cain        Polly Kimmitt
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Quiz #34 Answer