Friday, May 08, 2020

Fannie Mills (c.1859 - 1899) and Josephine Myrtle Corbin (1868 -1928)

Fannie was born in Sussex, England circa 1859 to English migrants who settled near Sandusky, Ohio. She was born with congenital abnormalities in her lymphatic system, which caused a disruption of normal drainage of lymph causing her legs and feet to become gigantic. Although petite in stature, Fannie weighed 52.27kg, but her feet measured 17 inches long and she wore size 30 shoes with pillowcases for socks. The family believed her illness resulted from a “maternal impression” when Mr. Mills, her father, made the pregnant Mrs. Mills wash the swollen leg of a horse.

The condition was first described by Rudolf Virchow in 1863, but later after William Milroy described a case in 1892, it became known as Milroy’s Disease . Milroy's disease is a familial disease characterized by lymphedema, commonly in the legs, caused by congenital abnormalities in the lymphatic system. More commonly unilateral but Fannie’s condition was bilateral. The autosomal dominant condition caused by a mutation in the FLT4 gene which encodes of the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 3 (VEGFR-3) gene located on the long arm (q) on chromosome 5 (5q35.3) is rare and does not normally affect life expectancy.

Fannie was well liked and well known and in 1885, aged 25, joined the museum circuit, accompanied by her nurse, Mary Brown. For the next seven years ‘The Ohio Big Foot Girl’, toured dime museums , and became a popular attraction receiving several proposals of marriage. She married Mary’s brother William in late 1886. In 1899 at age 39, Fannie Mills died “of an abscess” and William Brown, died of cancer in 1904 , aged 70. They had no children.

It was widely advertised Fannie’s father provided a dowry of $5,000 and a ‘well-stocked farm’ to the first man who would take his daughter for a wife. It is reported Fannie had fun with the ruse as her father did not own a farm. In all likely hood the claim was used by the dime museums to attract customers and Fannie did receive many offers from would be suitors despite being quietly married.

Josephine Myrtle Corbin (1868 -1928)

Josephine Myrtle Corbin was born in Lincoln County, Tennessee in 1868. She was born with two separate pelvises side by side from the waist down. The condition is known as dipygus and describes a severe congenital deformity. Each of her smaller inner legs was paired with one of her outer legs. She was said to be able to move her inner legs, but they were too weak for walking. On the right outer foot she had a  talipes equinovarus (club foot). Despite her unique condition she was a strong baby, enjoyed robust health and grew up to be a very intelligent and attractive young woman. According to her doctor in 1889, he described her as perfect dual development of both external and internal genital organs. She preferred intercourse in the right side.

Aged 13, Myrtle Corbin became a major attraction on the sideshow circuit as the "Four-Legged Girl from Texas," and earned a lot of money. Soon rival showmen were exhibiting (phony) four-legged women.

Myrtle did not allow her circumstance to affect her view of life and aged 19 she married a doctor and had four daughters and a son. Myrtle was able to carry three pregnancies on the right side and the other two on the left.

In 1928, Myrtle Corbin died after suffering from a streptococcal skin infection. On news of her death, several medical practitioners and private collectors offered financial compensation for her corpse, As a result her casket was covered in concrete to prevent grave robbers from stealing her corpse.

(Video Courtesy: The Story Behind by Youtube Channel)

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