Bearded lady

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Annie Jones toured with P.T. Barnum's circus in the 19th century.

A bearded lady or bearded woman is a woman who has a visible beard. These women have long been a phenomenon of legend, curiosity, or ridicule.


A relatively small number of women are able to grow enough facial hair to have a distinct beard. In some cases, female beard growth is the result of a hormonal imbalance (usually androgen excess), or a rare genetic disorder known as hypertrichosis.[1]

There are numerous references to bearded women throughout the centuries, and Shakespeare also mentioned them in Macbeth: “you should be Women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret, That you are so”. (138–46; 1.3. 37–45) However, there are no known productions of Macbeth which include bearded witches. [2]

Sometimes it is caused by use of anabolic steroids. Cultural pressure leads most to remove it, as it may be viewed as a social stigma.

The “bearded lady” is a cliché—a staple of a carnival sideshow.


Notable exceptions were the famous bearded women of the circus sideshows of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Barnum's Josephine Clofullia and Ringling Bros.' Jane Barnell, whose anomalies were celebrated.[citation needed] Sometimes circus and carnival freak shows presented bearded ladies who were actually women with facial wigs or bearded men dressed as women, both practices being lampooned by comedian and former circus performer W.C. Fields in the 1939 film, You Can't Cheat an Honest Man.[3] TV Series American Horror Story added a bearded lady played by Kathy Bates.[citation needed]

Notable women with beards[edit]

Magdalena Ventura, portrait by Jusepe de Ribera (1631)

12th century[edit]

14th century[edit]

16th century[edit]

17th century[edit]

19th century[edit]

20th century[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Taylor, Sarah K (June 18, 2009). "Congenital Hypertrichosis Lanuginosa". Emedicine. Medscape. Retrieved December 4, 2009. 
  2. ^ Shopland, Norena 'A wonder of nature' from Forbidden Lives: LGBT stories from Wales, Seren Books, 2017
  3. ^ Deschner, Donald (1966). The Films of W.C. Fields. New York: Cadillac Publishing by arrangement with The Citadel Press. p. 139.  Introduction by Arthur Knight

External links[edit]