Child of Esau: the grief and happiness of Annie, who challenged the foundations of society (11 photos)

Category: Nostalgia, PEGI 0+
16 May 2024

To be different from others and to flaunt your dubious difference - what does it feel like?

Annie Jones, perhaps the most famous bearded woman of her time, knew the answer to this question for sure.

Baby Annie was born in Virginia on July 14, 1865. At first, Annie’s parents were horrified: their daughter’s chin was covered with small but noticeable hairs. However, not much time passed before the Jones family sensed the benefit that the baby’s unusual appearance promised them. Rumors about which have already reached the famous showman P. T. Barnum.

When Annie was just over a year old, she was brought to New York to be featured on Barnum's show as "Baby Esau." The name was often applied to hairy children. This was the name of the biblical character, whose name translates as “hairy.”

After the first short but very successful performance, Barnum offered Annie's mother a contract for three years, assigning Annie a weekly salary of $150.

Mrs. Jones accepted this very generous offer for that time and moved permanently to live with her daughter in New York. However, during the first year of the contract, family circumstances forced the woman to return to Virginia, and she left Annie in the care of a nanny appointed by Barnum.

At this time, Annie was kidnapped by a local phrenologist, who tried to use the baby as an exhibit in a private exhibition. Fortunately, Annie soon found herself in New York State, and the kidnapper was dealt with. And the girl quickly returned to the care of Mrs. Jones, who remained close to her daughter throughout her career.

During her long career, Jones not only traveled with Barnum's show, but also worked on numerous exhibitions. Annie's stage name changed according to the artist's age throughout her career. She was known as the Child of Esau and later as the Lady of Esau. The woman not only wore a long beard and carefully emphasized it, but also grew the hair on her head to almost 1.80. Annie also developed her talents, because it was not enough for her to just look at people. She became famous for her musical abilities and knowledge of etiquette.

At the age of sixteen, Jones married Richard Elliott, a professional showman.

The marriage lasted fifteen years, after which the couple divorced. Jones then married William Donovan. Together, the newlyweds set off on their own and toured Europe, with Annie acting as an independent star and William as an agent. Unfortunately, the marriage was short-lived, as William died suddenly. Annie, not knowing what else to do, quickly returned to work on Barnum's show.

In 1902, Annie fell ill while visiting her mother in Brooklyn and died on October 22 at the age of thirty-seven. Jones went down in history as the most famous bearded lady of her era.

Salma Hayek in the 2009 film A Vampire's Tale as a bearded woman

Keela Settle in the 2017 film The Greatest Showman as a bearded woman

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