Annie Jones (c. 1860 – 1902) was an American bearded woman, born in Virginia. She toured with showman P. T. Barnum as a circus attraction. It is unconfirmed if this was a case of hirsutism or an unrelated genetic condition that affects children of both sexes and continues into adult years.
When Jones joined Barnum’s exhibition as a child of only nine months, Jones’ parents received a $150-a-week salary. She was billed as a new “infant Esau.” By the age of five, she had a mustache and sideburns and became well known as the “Bearded Girl.” US photographer Mathew Brady took Jones’ portrait as a child in 1865. A number of additional portraits were taken of Jones during her lifetime and were widely distributed.
In an incident which may have been one of Barnum’s publicity stunts, a New York phrenologist kidnapped Jones when she was a young child. Barnum and the police found her exhibited in a church fair. When the man claimed the child as his, the matter went to court. The judge had Jones separated from the others before it was her time to testify. When the child was taken to the courtroom, she went straight to her parents. The judge declared the case closed.
As an adult, Jones became the country’s top “bearded lady” and acted as a spokesperson for Barnum’s “Freaks”, a word she tried to abolish from the business. Later in her career, Jones toured in Russia and claimed to have turned down painters who asked her to pose as Jesus. She became a musician. Jones married Richard Elliot in 1881, but divorced him in 1895 for her childhood sweetheart William Donovan (who later died, leaving Jones a widow). In 1902, Jones herself died of tuberculosis.