Education and Learning, Just about Anything, Series Feature, Weekly Features, Writing

Series Feature #23 Life in the Circus from Yesterday to Today! – Josephine Joseph (Half Man/ Half Women)

Step right up, Step right up! The show is about to begin as we explore the world of the circus and those who made and make a magical place to visit.  The tradition of the circus has a long incredible history as we learned from last week, but that history lesson is not over today as I will make it point of how history and even film has influenced the circus.

For months month’s now we have explored the world of the circus and those performers we call freaks, although the term itself it derogatory and should not be used today, this is what they were referred to. I stand by using the terms of those times, but we must always remember these were human beings that should have been treated better but weren’t always. Many of the performers we have profiled lived incredibly sad lives and some lives very exciting lives t a great deal of money for their talents and eccentricities. These performers did not have a lot of options to live a normal life and many times society outcaste them living many no choice but to join a circus or freak show to make a living. Today these people hopefully would be respected and even maybe have a rockstar status for their differences, but society is still a cruel place today.

Can you imagine if the Elephant man existed today? Or Lobster boy or any of the other performers I have profiled here. Its hard to say if society would accept them or run-in fear over their differences. One type of performer that has seemed to have a normal life is “Little People”, where today many little people are incredible performers in film and television like one of my favorite Warwick Davis who has been in multitude of films like Willow and Harry Potter.

There are so many performers that have been forgotten or their stories go untold because of little or no real information other than a picture and some history, but they existed. Some of the so called freaks were not freaks at all, but unusual in their appearance all human beings of course, but it’s sad that we as society exploited that to make money and bring fame.

Previous Profiles and Stories

Thomas Wedders (World’s Largest Nose)

Charlotte Vogel (Susi the Elephant Skin Girl)

Felix Wehrle (The Elastic Man)

The Human Caterpillar

T.A. Valenzulea (The World’s Biggest Man) (B. 1886, D.1925)

Jennie Quigley (August 20, 1850- March 11th, 1936)

Issaac W. Spraque and Peter Robinson (The Original Thin Man)

The Muse Brothers

Edouard Beaurpre (Worlds Tallest Man)

Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man)

Stephan Bibrowski (Lionel the Lion-faced Man)

General Tom Thumb and Admiral Dot

Series Feature #9 – Life in The Circus From Yesterday to Today! – General Tom Thumb and Admiral Dot | Joseph’s Adventures in Writing (

Ohio Bigfoot Lady

Series Feature #8 – Life in The Circus From Yesterday to Today! – Fannie Mills (Ohio Bigfoot Lady) | Joseph’s Adventures in Writing (

Grady Stiles (Lobster Boy)

Series Feature #7 – Life in The Circus From Yesterday to Today! – Grady Stiles Jr.(Lobster Boy) | Joseph’s Adventures in Writing (

The Pinheads Pip/Flip and Schlitizie-

Series Feature #6 – Life in The Circus From Yesterday to Today! – Schlitzie, Pip and Flip (Aka Pinheads) | Joseph’s Adventures in Writing (

Myrtle Corbin (The Four Legged Girl)

Series Feature #5 – Life in The Circus From Yesterday to Today! – Myrtle Corbin (The Four Legged Girl) | Joseph’s Adventures in Writing (

Koo-Koo the Bird Girl

Series Feature #4 – Life in The Circus From Yesterday to Today! – Koo-Koo the Bird Girl (Minnie Woolsey and Elizabeth Green) | Joseph’s Adventures in Writing (

Bearded Women

Camel Girl

The Siamese Twins

Josephine Joseph (Half Man/Half Women) – B – 1896/1897

Was an American performer who was a prominent circus sideshow during the 20th century.  Best known for her only role in the Tod Browning production of Freaks in 1932. Her body supposedly split down the middle, one side female and the other male. She claimed to be an intersex person or what some what called a hermaphrodite. But there is no evidence to confirm whether this was the case, she may have been a very skilled impersonator.

Like many freaks of the 20th century, she presented a “half and half” trick: Women on the left, man on the right. One side of the body would be exercised, have hair trimmed and tanned. The other side would be covered and unexercised, making it pale and flappy, so the chest resembled a women’s breast while the hair was grown out. The performer would where a split costume: Low cut, tight top and hotpants on the female side and on the “male” side a Tarzan-style loincloth.

In 1937, Joseph had two sexual reassignment surgeries, after which Joseph identified as a women.

Court Case:

In 1930, Joseph and her husband George Waas, described only as an American couple in newspapers, were presenting a Coney Island style attraction in Blackpool, England under the title of “Josephine Joseph”, were prosecuted in the UK for false pretenses and conspiracy on account of their “Half-Women/Half Man” circus show.

Joseph claimed to be 27 years old at the time, although in reality she was 33 or 34 years old. The court alleged that the show was a fraud, and she was not a true hermaphrodite. Waas offered to submit X-rays of Josephine to the magistrates but refused to submit her to a court doctor examination. 

Per the courts description, she was described as a man on the right and a women on the left, with her right arm longer then her left. Her eyebrows were different. She displayed a bare right leg with a sandal, and a black stocking left leg with a women’s shoe. Her hair was brushed from the right side to the left, giving the impression of short hair on the right side. To avoid a jury trial, Joseph and Waas plead guilty. Waas apologized to the court, giving up the show and leaving the country. Waas who served as Joseph’s manager was fined 25 pounds, whilst Josephine was acquitted.

Personal life:

She was married to her manager George Waas, who she possibly married in 1917. Much of her personal life, including birthname, date of birth and death has never clearly established. It is presumed she was born in the year of 1896 and 1897.

There is no further information about Josephine Joseph

These men and women often exploited for there freakness and uniqueness, but I will say that many made money, some astounding amounts in those days. Do we still exploit people today, sure we do but we do it on the social stage of social media, on TV and movies for a profit?

Thank you for continuing to be on this journey with me as these posts are not as often but certainty not forgotten. I continue to this day to find these incredible human beings who are often forgotten about.

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