As anyone can tell, I am fascinated by circus fat ladies. Maybe if I had been born 80-50 years ago I would have become one, I'm not sure though. Did they feel the hurt to their dignity as the crowds hooted and hollered at the then far rarer sight of their bodies? For many this was the only way to make a living.
When I was at my peak weight of near 700lbs, that boggled-eyed stares predominated but I had bald spots, and skin sores body wide, the mess that was my body drew interest. In my case, there was more then just the obese angle to deal with. Today I can be stared at still, though it's rarer, because people have become more used to big fat people since their numbers have increased.
In pre-disability days, perhaps many of these ladies had no other options especially if they did not have a supportive family or husband, except to join the circus and travel with the sideshow. It's terrible side shows even existed exploiting human differences for profit, but back in those days what else could a woman in very supersizes do? I do find myself thinking that definitely for the rigors of circus life, these women had to be in somewhat better shape to handle the travel of the early nomadic circus life. There is no way I would last through being put on a train every other day for the next town.
I find their lives fascinating to read about though when I can get articles online. What would it have been like to speak with one of these women and what they faced? Many had friends, many were able to find husbands even others that toured in the circus or played a role. Many did have shortened life spans but some lived longer then you would have expected for that time and place.
Both of these photos shown here are a famous circus fat lady who called herself Alice from Dallas.
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Born in 1893, Alice Dunbar grew up to be a mighty big girl. Nicknamed “Alice from Dallas,” she worked for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey for nearly 20 years. Her peak weight was typically billed at 685 pounds, though she was once listed at 702 pounds. Any dresses or muumuus measured six feet around the waist to fit over her stomach. In addition to the Ringling shows, Alice also exhibited her heaping flesh at Coney Island and in her hometown at the Texas Centennial Exhibition in 1940 and at the World’s Fair Museum in 1943.
Outside the circus tent, Alice from Dallas took another name, Alice Julian. The successful fat lady married a circus tattoo artist, named Frank Julian. Happily married, they retired from show business in the mid-1940s. Alice began losing weight, but still left plenty of love handles, having only dieted down to 425 pounds. That was as light as she got. On November 25, 1955, the 62-year-old Alice from Dallas died, appropriately enough, in Dallas.