Annie Jones had a long career in the sideshow. Even as a little
girl she had quite a respectable beard and was billed as The
Infant Esau. During this time, the famous Civil War photographer
Matthew Brady took her portrait.
Victorian audiences seemed to have been particularly fascinated
with bearded women because their unusual masculine attribute
challenged traditional ideas of gender. Many visitors refused
to believe these were actually women (although it should be noted
that in some cases a 'bearded lady' was actually a man in drag).
Promoters such as Phineas Taylor Barnum occasionally went so far as to challenge
patrons in court, thereby gaining more publicity for their exhibits.
Annie was certainly a woman, and a rather fetching woman at
hat, if one could look past the whiskers. Apart from her beard,
she was the very ideal of Victorian womanhood. As an emblem
of feminine beauty, it seemed fitting Annie should be depicted
as one of those archetypal beauties from a Pre-Raphaelite painting.
[To see more drawings from this series, please visit the Prodigies