Roasted Corn with the Bearded Lady of Coney Island

The loneliness of the bearded lady — who does it concern besides the lady herself? No one really, save perhaps a curious soul or two. Journalist Joseph Mitchell was one such soul. In his 1940 piece on Jane Barnell (aka Lady Olga), America’s most famous bearded lady, ┬áhe writes that she “occasionally considers herself an outcast and feels that there is something vaguely shameful about the way she makes a living.” Hirsute since infancy, Barnell was put on exhibition shortly after her fourth birthday, when her parents sold her to the Great Orient Family Circus. Her stint with the outfit marked the beginning of a long career, during which she appeared in at least twenty-five circuses and sideshows.

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