Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Six-Legged Marriage

When writing a family history, one should always provide something more than names and dates. Take, for example, this WorldConnect entry for Josephine Myrtle (Corbin) Bicknell. Her approximate date of birth is given, and her marriage date, but nowhere does it mention that she was born with four legs.

According to The Human Marvels, Myrtle was born in 1868 with her dipygus twin sister attached down below.

The tiny body of her twin was only fully developed from the waist down and even then it was malformed – tiny and possessing only three toes on each foot. Myrtle was able to control the limbs of her sister but was unable to use them for walking and she herself had a difficult time getting around as she was born with a clubbed foot. Technically, the ‘Four-Legged Woman’ only had one good, usable leg.
Despite this infirmity, Myrtle married and had children. Here's where it gets genealogically interesting.
It seems that her twin sister was also fully sexually formed – thus Myrtle possessed two vaginas. She had four daughters and a son and it has been rumored that three of her children were born from one set of organs and two from the other. Whether this is true or not; it is medically possible. [Link, via Neatorama]
Medically possible, but genealogically problematic. Should she be called the birth mother of all five children? If not, should she called the surrogate mother of some? And was her husband a bigamist, an adulterer, or just a generous brother-in-law?

(More images of Myrtle may be seen here. C'mon, you know you wanna look.)


I can't help but look at a post like this and remember reading that around the turn of the 20th century, special people such as this were treated like royalty. When the laws were being passed to prevent "Oddity Shows" et al, a good number of the participants protested as sometimes their ownly method of livelihood was being taken away from them.



What's amazing is that Myrtle lived a somewhat normal life, and died surrounded by family and friends. There's hope for all of us.

J. Tithonus Pednaud

The World Connect entry you posted is interesting indeed. It is almost a shame that - if it wasn't for sideshow historians like myself - details about these special and remarkable individuals would be lost to sterile and point form information.

Cogito Argentum

During her early life working at the Sideshows, Myrtle was making 450 dollars a week (circa 1880)


Wow! I wonder what a pair of extra legs would fetch today.


Her husband was NOT a doctor. She had three daughters and one son.


The 1900 census for Johnson County, Texas, states that Myrtle was the mother of five children, only three then living. The 1910 census for the same county states that she had had eight children, four then living.

Because I couldn't prove the claim that her husband was a doctor, I didn't repeat it in the post. Unless "bigamy" can be considered a medical specialty.


GGdaughter.. I asume u r a relative of Myrtle. She was my great grandmother, my mother was her granddaughter (Josephine Wilma Wells Brown). If you have any information on the Corbin family history, please feel free to email me at shenegar@bscn.com

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