Jane Barnell

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Lady Olga

Jane Barnell (January 3, 1871 – October 26, 1951) was an American bearded lady who used the stage name Lady Olga.

Biography[edit]

According to later accounts - notably Joseph Mitchell's article "Lady Olga" in Up In The Old Hotel - Barnell's mother sold her to the Great Orient Family Circus, which was later merged with a larger circus. This circus took her to Germany. She fell ill in Berlin and was left in an orphanage, where she was later found by her father.

As an adult, when she was working on her grandmother's farm she met a circus strongman who invited her to join John Robinson’s Circus. She tried several stage names before eventually settling on Lady Olga Roderick. At that time her beard was 13 inches long.

Lady Olga toured for a time with a number of circuses, including the Ringling Brothers circus, and later joined Hubert's Museum in Times Square, New York. She appeared in a number of films, most famously Tod Browning's Freaks (1932) which, according to the documentary on the Freaks DVD (Freaks: The Sideshow Cinema, 2004), left her unhappy with the overall portrayal of the sideshow performers in the film.

Personal life[edit]

Barnell was married four times. Her last marriage was to Thomas O'Boyle, her thought-to-be manager, an ex-circus clown, and a sideshow talker for Hubert's Dime Museum.