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Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville's Famous Conjoined Twins



by
Sarah Miller

Edition
Library edition with trade jacket added
Publisher
Penguin Random House
Imprint
Schwartz & Wade
ISBN
9780593119730
POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
Discrimination: Ableism, Violence: Child Abuse, Crime: Against Children, Sexual Content: Contact Between Adult and Minor, Violence: Sexual Assault/Rape
$21.42   $17.85
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JLG Category

History High

From the author of The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets and The Borden Murders comes the absorbing and compulsively readable story of Violet and Daisy Hilton, conjoined twins who were the sensation of the US sideshow circuits in the 1920s and 1930s.

On February 5, 1908, Kate Skinner, a 21-year-old unmarried barmaid in Brighton, England, gave birth to twin girls. They each had ten fingers and ten toes, but were joined back to back at the base of the spine. Freaks, monsters—that’s what they were called. Mary Hilton, Kate’s employer and midwife, adopted Violet and Daisy and promptly began displaying the babies as “Brighton’s United Twins.” Exhibitions at street fairs, carnivals, and wax museums across England and Scotland followed. At 8 years old, the girls came to the United States, eventually becoming the stars of sideshow, vaudeville, and burlesque circuits in the 1920s and 1930s. In a story loaded with questions about identity and exploitation, Sarah Miller delivers a completely compelling, empathetic portrait of two sisters whose physical bond was the cause of their greatest misfortunes—yet that bond was so sacred Violet forfeited her life to Daisy in the end, rather than break it.Author’s note. Notes. Sources. Index.

POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
Discrimination: Ableism, Violence: Child Abuse, Crime: Against Children, Sexual Content: Contact Between Adult and Minor, Violence: Sexual Assault/Rape

Details

Format

Print

Page Count

320

Trim Size

9 1/10" x 6 1/10"

Dewey

920

AR

0: points 0

Lexile

1150

Genre

Nonfic

Scholastic Reading Counts

0

JLG Release

Jul 2021

Book Genres

Autobiography/Biography, Narrative Nonfiction

Topics

Daisy Hilton (1908–1969). Violet Hilton (1908–1969). Conjoined twins. Family. Siblings. Sisters. Twentieth-century US vaudeville. Circuses and carnivals. Disability.

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Praise & Reviews

Horn Book

On February 5, 1908, conjoined twins were born to Kate Skinner, an unwed mother, in Brighton, England. Mary Hilton, the opportunistic bar owner who had hired the expectant mother for no pay in exchange for midwifery services, quickly adopted the girls from Skinner, and proceeded to charge customers for a peek at them. Carnivals of the time featured a variety of so- called “freaks,” people with atypical physical features. Capitalizing on this, Mary began touring the twins, first in England, then Europe and Australia, before landing in America. Here they made the jump to vaudeville, becoming a sensational box office hit in the 1920s. When Mary passed away, guardianship passed to her daughter and son-in-law, who continued to shamelessly exploit the twins. Ultimately, however, the sisters broke free of their control and began managing their own business affairs, though much less successfully. After their careers ended with a steady mix of burlesque shows, nightclub acts, and state fairs, they retired to Florida, working in a grocery store, before passing away in 1969. True to form, Miller’s (The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets, rev. 9/19) account is meticulously detailed and draws a clear line between facts and speculation, especially when it comes to the motivation of various characters. This comprehensive biography also provides a healthy dose of social history, particularly as it relates to entertainment, gender roles, and disability. A section of black-and- white captioned photographs is inserted in the middle, while an author’s note, bibliography, and source notes are appended. JONATHAN HUNT

Praise & Reviews

Horn Book

On February 5, 1908, conjoined twins were born to Kate Skinner, an unwed mother, in Brighton, England. Mary Hilton, the opportunistic bar owner who had hired the expectant mother for no pay in exchange for midwifery services, quickly adopted the girls from Skinner, and proceeded to charge customers for a peek at them. Carnivals of the time featured a variety of so- called “freaks,” people with atypical physical features. Capitalizing on this, Mary began touring the twins, first in England, then Europe and Australia, before landing in America. Here they made the jump to vaudeville, becoming a sensational box office hit in the 1920s. When Mary passed away, guardianship passed to her daughter and son-in-law, who continued to shamelessly exploit the twins. Ultimately, however, the sisters broke free of their control and began managing their own business affairs, though much less successfully. After their careers ended with a steady mix of burlesque shows, nightclub acts, and state fairs, they retired to Florida, working in a grocery store, before passing away in 1969. True to form, Miller’s (The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets, rev. 9/19) account is meticulously detailed and draws a clear line between facts and speculation, especially when it comes to the motivation of various characters. This comprehensive biography also provides a healthy dose of social history, particularly as it relates to entertainment, gender roles, and disability. A section of black-and- white captioned photographs is inserted in the middle, while an author’s note, bibliography, and source notes are appended. JONATHAN HUNT

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