>> Friday, August 24, 2007
Challenge: Non-Fiction Five Alternate #4
I first heard about Daisy and Violet and this book when a friend from work was reading it. It was a very interesting biography.
Daisy and Violet were born in 1908 in Brighton England to an unwed mother who was terrified by her babies. The girls were pygopagus twins - conjoined at the hips and buttocks. They shared blood circulation and were fused at the pelvis but shared no major organs. Cared for by Mary Hilton, the midwife who delivered them, the twins were quickly turned into an income producing venture. Mary, her husband and daughter became somewhat less than a ‘family’ for Daisy and Violet in the sense that the twins were treated as more of a business than family members. First controlled by Mary and her husband, the management of the twins life and career was eventually taken over by Mary’s son-in-law Myer Myers (a carnival balloon salesman who met and married Edith Hilton while the family was on tour with the twins in Australia).
The twins spent their early life on tour first in sideshows and carnivals in Europe, Australia, and eventually in America. Later they moved on to touring with the vaudeville theater circuit. To the Hiltons’ and later the Myers’ credit, they saw to it that the girls were educated as well as trained in music and dance.
As the twins matured, they managed to take the legal steps necessary to escape the controlling environment of the Myers household and take control of their own lives and careers. Their sometimes scandal ridden ride through the entertainment world of vaudeville, and the early movie industry is filled with famous acquaintences including Harry Houdini and a very young Bob Hope.
Their story has its share of sadness. The twins seemed to attract people who wanted to either exploit them or cheat them throughout their lives. As their show business career faded away, they really didn't have anything to turn to. Although they often said they dreamed of settling down and getting married to two nice men and having children, such a life eluded them.
All in all it was a very interesting book.