sábado, 24 de julio de 2010

Myrtle Corbin, the Four Legged Woman.

Josephene Myrtle Corbin, the Four-Legged Woman, was born in Lincoln County, Tennessee in 1868. She was known in her day as the "Four Legged Woman from Texas."

This remarkable woman had a rare form of conjoined twinning known as dipygus, which gave her two complete bodies from the waist down;

One hers, and the other belonging to her dipygus twin sister, who was smaller, mal-formed and had three toes on each foot.

Myrtle became an exhibit in the sideshow circut at thirteen. 

Her first promotional pamphlet (Biography of Myrtle Corbin, 1881) describes her as “gentle of disposition as the summer sunshine and as happy as the day is long.” She toured with P.T Barnum and later the Ringling Brothers.

She was an extremely popular attraction on Coney Island, earning sometimes $450 a week.

As part of her act, Myrtle would dress her second set of legs in matching socks and shoes to the other set, thus creating a surreal spectacle for her audience.

Myrtle’s younger sister, Willie Ann, married Hiram Locke Bicknell in 1885. Hiram’s brother Dr. James Clinton Bicknell proposed to Myrtle shortly afterward, and the two were wed in June 1886.

Upon their marriage James Bicknell insisted that Myrtle leave show business, which she did. She would go on to be blessed with five healthy children.

Myrtle had two small pelves side-by-side, and each of her smaller inner legs was paired with one of her outer legs. She could move the smaller legs but was unable to use them for walking.

Both lower bodies were fully developed sexually; both vaginas would menstruate simultaneously, and Myrtle even successfully delivered three children on the right side, and two on her left side. Myrtle had three other children who were stillborn. The surviving Bicknell children were Nancy Estelle, Francis Clinton, Ruby, and Lillian J.

From Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle:

Wells a describes Mrs. B., aged twenty, still alive and healthy. The duplication in this case begins just above the waist, the spinal column dividing at the third lumbar vertebra, below this point everything being double.

Micturition and defecation occur at different times, but menstruation occurs simultaneously. She was married at nineteen, and became pregnant a year later on the left side, but abortion was induced at the fourth month on account of persistent nausea and the expectation of impossible delivery.

Whaley, in speaking of this case, said Mrs. B. utilized her outside legs for walking; he also remarks that when he informed her that she was pregnant on the left side she replied, "I think you are mistaken; if it had been on my right side I would come nearer believing it;"--and after further questioning he found, from the patient's observation, that her right genitals were almost invariably used for coitus.

Little is known about the specifics of the Bicknell family’s economic situation, but it seems to have deteriorated severely.

Show-people like Myrtle came out of retirement simply because they needed the money. Just so, the Four-Legged Girl from Cleburne, TX was back in the business appearing at Huber’s Museum in New York in 1909 at age 41.

The family no doubt intended this new turn of events to be temporary. But then 1910 turned into 1915: Dreamland Circus Sideshow, Coney Island. Riverview Park, Chicago. Myrtle worked the circuit and Myrtle made money. 

James, Myrtle & daughter Lillian in 1915.

It had been more than 20 years since she last exhibited. She appears to have finally stopped exhibiting around 1915. 

In 1928 Myrtle developed a skin infection on her right leg. When it failed to heal she finally went to a doctor in Cleburne. He diagnosed her as having erysipilas – a streptococcal skin infection.

On May 6, less than a week after being diagnosed, Josephine Myrtle Corbin-Bicknell was dead at age 60.

Pictures include:
husband Clinton Bicknell and daughter (Mannix Bicknell)
Atlanta Medical Journal, ca. 1888
Woodcut of Myrtle from a photograph taken in Nashville, Tenn., June 16, 1868. From the Journal of the American Medical Association Contributions to Teratology, Investigation of the Four-Legged Child, J. Myrtle Corban, October 20, 1888.

http://www.appalachianhistory.net/2009/05/she-had-one-husband-four-children-and.html, Posted by Dave Tabler | May 6, 2009
Drimmer, Frederick. Very Special People. Repr. New York: Citadel Press, 1991.

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