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Biography

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Overview (5)

Date of Birth 28 February 1877Wilmington, North Carolina, USA
Date of Death 26 October 1951Los Angeles, California, USA
Birth NameJane Barnell
Nickname Lady Olga
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Olga Roderick, Madame Olga, was born Jane Barnell in Wilmington, NC on January 3, 1871 (or February 28, 1877, depending on the source). Her father was a Russian Jew and her mother Catawba Indian. According to historians, she was growing hair by the age of two and was bearded at four. Her deformity caused her mother to believe that Jane was bewitched, so she sold her to the Great Orient Family Circus when her husband was away on business. Jane would later comment, "I have never been able to find out if Mamma got any money for me, or just gave me away to get rid of me. She hated me, I know that. Daddy told me years later that he gave her a good beating when he got home from Baltimore and found out what had happened."

The circus later merged with a larger circus and successfully toured Europe, eventually traveling to Germany. In Berlin, Jane contracted typhoid fever and taken to a local hospital, where she was not expected to live. Allegedly, after her recovery, she found that the circus had left without her, and she was placed in an orphanage. Her father finally tracked her down and brought her back to the United States, where she worked on her grandmother's farm in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Her neighbor, a circus strongman, invited her to join John Robinson's Circus, and at the age of 21, after trying several stage names (including Madame Olga), she settling on Lady Olga Roderick. At the time, her beard was 13 inches long, "the longest in the world."

During her lifetime, Lady Olga worked for more than 25 circuses, including Ringling Brothers, Forepaugh-Sells, Dreamland Circus Sideshow and Hubert's Dime Museum, earning between $20 and $100 per week. It was stated that she seemed to have an overtly inflated view of herself, and was not a terribly happy or friendly person to be around. She was a socialist and very political, expressing her opinions in no uncertain terms.

Lady Olga appeared in Tod Browning's Freaks (1932) as the wife of Pete Robinson, the Skeleton Man, celebrating the birth of their child (who also has a beard). After the film was released (and in later years), she was the most vocal about being very unhappy with the overall portrayal of the sideshow performers in the film, vowing never to work in Hollywood again. She said it was "an insult to all freaks everywhere" and "if the truth be known, we're all freaks together."

Barnell was married four times and had two children by her first husband. Her last marriage was to her "alleged" manager Thomas O'Boyle, who was an ex-clown and a sideshow talker at the gate of Hubert's Museum on 42nd Street. Her last circus performance was in 1938 with Ringling Brothers in New York City, although she continued making public appearances until her death.

Jane Barnell died on October 26, 1951 in Los Angeles, CA.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: mgnylander@yahoo.com

Spouse (4)

Thomas O'Boyle (1931 - ?)
? (? - ?) (his death)
? (? - ?) (divorced)
? (? - ?) (2 children)

Trade Mark (1)

Her long thick black beard

Trivia (2)

Circus and sideshow performer since age of four, including Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Baily; apparantly played in several Hollywood movies.
She was a genuine bearded lady.

Personal Quotes (1)

Speaking on the subject of actors, from the Barrymores on down, Jane Barnell stated "If the truth was known, we're all freaks together."

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