These two Black circus sideshow acts lived extraordinary lives.
Sylvia, also known as “The Girl with Elephant Feet,” was described as a very pretty, otherwise normal woman with enormous feet and legs due to lymphedema, a disease sometimes called elephantiasis.
Each foot was two feet long, but she didn’t consider herself handicapped and could drive a car and dance. So her experience as a sideshow exhibit was profitable.
Betty Lou, known as “The Girl with Three Arms and Four Legs” or the “Four-Legged Wonder.”
The youngest of twelve, Betty Lou, had a parasitic twin with two legs and one arm hanging from her abdomen. By age two, she earned $20 a week on exhibit at Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium at Chicago’s World Fair in 1934. By the time Betty Lou was in her twenties, she was earning $1,000 a week. Betty Lou purchased a 260-acre farm for her parents and supported her siblings through college. Her earnings had increased because she developed a following of male suitors.
At age twenty-three, she became engaged to one of her admirers. But, unfortunately, before they wed, her soon-to-be-husband left, taking a lot of money. Betty Lou was so heartbroken she suffered a severe asthma attack and suffocated to death and died.