Big Hattie Bowen, “The White Giantess of Massachusetts”

A rare example of a show person to whom I may be related, if distantly, is Harriet “Big Hattie” Bowen, ca. 1840-1890. (Another Bowen connection is here).

Hattie hailed from Fairhaven, Mass., which is located on Buzzard’s Bay next to New Bedford. Her peak weight was reportedly 783 lbs, and she was billed in show business as “The White Giantess of Massachusetts”.( I frankly have no idea why “white” is part of it. Was there a larger woman of color in Massachusetts at the time?) At any rate, Bowen is known have performed with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, as well as the wild west shows of both Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill, and dime museums from the Bowery to St. Louis. This photo was taken a few months before she died:

To learn more about the variety arts, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous