Friday, December 15, 2023

Half Woman Half Animal Shocks the World

 Author: Samuel Kramer

Every day we as people forget that we are born with natural beauty looks that are attractive to other people. However, this was not the case for one unfortunate woman in the 19th century. Julia Pastrana was a young Mexican woman who was born with two very rare genetic disorders. One being hyperplasia which thickened her gums and lips to the point which protruded her skull to an almost ape like face. The other being hypertrichosis which caused her to grow an extreme amount of facial hair which was impossible to live with. These conditions would soon be recognized by the rest of the world soon after she was born, and she would soon be called the
“Bear Woman”.

Julia Pastrana, “A Monster to The Whole World”      

In Pastrana’s early life, she was scolded by her family and town for her looks and at one point, she was left in a forest to die but was miraculously saved by an unknown person. Shortly after, Pastrana was sold into show business by her own two parents due to her not being able to find work elsewhere. Her parents and others thought that they could pass off Pastrana as a “Circus Act” or “Attraction”. People all over the world came to see Pastrana and her rare genetic mutations. Pastrana, at this point in her life faced extreme depression due to racism, degrading names, and even some cases of violence. Soon, however, Pastrana would be able to find some love in her life in the form of her own manager.

Though Pastrana fell for her manager named Theodore Lent, Lent would continue to introduce her to the audience of the circus as, “The Ugliest Woman in the World.” Pastrana would overlook these things as she was genuinely attached to Lent as they traveled America and Europe together. Though her appearance, Pastrana was genuinely a wonderful singer and dancer. According to Francis Buckland, a British natural historian, “She had great taste in music and dancing, and could speak three languages.” While traveling, Pastrana would become pregnant with lent’s son. However, the baby would inherit the diseases from Pastrana and die during childbirth. Shortly after, Pastrana would also die from blood loss. Lent was distraught with what had happened with his wife and his son. Not long after, Lent would also die and soon Pastrana's body would be displayed along with her son. The story of Pastrana is widely known for its sadness with her appearance, but Pastrana as a person was able to overcome it with her interests and love for her wife. 

Work Cited:

 Butler, Aoife. “A Bearded Woman, Embalmed: The Post-Modern Display of Julia Pastrana in the 19th Century”. Pathological Bodies Project, 15th Oct 2020. Accessed by Oct 25th, 2023.

Brown Deneen. ““The Bear Woman”: The Brief, Sad Life of Julia Pastrana. The Washington Post, 4 June. 2018.  Accessed Oct 25th, 2023.

Carlton, Genevieve. “The Sad Story of Julia Pastrana, The “Ape Woman” Sideshow Performer.” All That’s Interesting, 3 May 2023. Accessed by October 25th, 2023.

Lovejoy, Bess. “A Monster to the Whole World” The Public Domain Review, 26 Nov. 2014. Accessed by October 31st, 2023.

Wilson, Charles. “An Artist Finds a Dignified Ending for an Ugly Story.” The New York Times, 14 Jan. 2023. Accessed by Oct 25th, 2023.

Woolfe. John. “The Sad, Grotesque Life of “Baboon Lady” Julia Pastrana. Literary Hub. 15 Nov. 2019. Accessed by October 25, 2023.

Links for further research:

Medline Plus, “Hyperplasia”. National Library of Medicine. 30th July 2021. Accessed by October 31st, 2023. This website dives into more detail on what hyperplasia is, other names it goes by, and what it is caused by.

Stat Pearls, “Hypertrichosis”. National Library of Medicine. 16th Aug 2023.,Hypertrichosis%20is%20defined%20as%20excessive%20hair%20growth%20anywhere%20on%20the,%5D%5B2%5D%5B3%5D. Accessed by October 31st, 2023. Similarly to the hyperplasia website, this website deals with cause, names, and even different forms of the disease which can be confused with others.

Rogers, Lisa. “The Restless Corpse of Julia Pastrana”. Lisa’s History Room. 9 May 2009. Accessed by October 31st, 2023. This website is for people who want to know more about Theodore Lent. Things such as his background history, job, and how he came into Pastrana's life.

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