Swiss-born Josephine Clofullia (1827-1875) was one of the hairiest of all historical bearded ladies, having been (at least reportedly) covered in hair at birth, and in possession of a two-inch beard before she was nine years old. At age 14, she went pro and toured the continent, picking up a husband and a diamond from Napoleon III along the way (as a reward for styling her whiskers in the manner of the French leader). She moved her family to the U.S. in 1853 to perform at P.T. Barnum’s American Museum. Her baby son, “Infant Esau” was also part of the act. That year, she was actually sued by a man name William Charr, who publicly claimed that Madame Cloffulia was biologically male. A doctor was called in; the suit was dropped. (Come, come, we don’t need a medical degree to have determined THAT, do we?)
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.