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Millie-Christine: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Paperback – Bargain Price, February 1, 2000


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From Publishers Weekly

Recounted simply as a historical narrative, the story of Millie-Christine McKoy's life is arresting. Born in slavery in North Carolina in 1851, the Siamese twins jointly known as Millie-Christine became world famous, first as a side-show attraction in the U.S. and then throughout Europe, where they conversed in five languages, sang, recited their own poems and appeared before royalty, including two command performances for Queen Victoria. Returning to the U.S. in 1882, they traveled for several years with a prestigious circus (receiving $25,000 a season) before settling down in 1884 in a large house they built in North Carolina on land they had bought for their father after he was freed from slavery 20 years earlier. Until their death in 1912, they did charity work and toured intermittently. Drawing on promotional material from Millie-Christine's shows, various legal records, newspaper reports and a memoir written by the twins, Martell presents a succinct and moving biography of a little-known subject in American history and popular culture that offers an intriguing, if very rudimentary, portrait of late 19th-century side-show and circus life in the U.S. and Europe. Although it's not Martell's intention to probe the ancillary cultural questions that her story raises--what was the twins' legal standing before and after slavery? How did race affect their career? What impact did American popular culture have in Europe?--some readers may find themselves wanting more from this fascinating biography.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-Jabez McKay, a North Carolina blacksmith, owned a slave who gave birth to conjoined or Siamese twins. Each of the girls had two legs and arms but experienced common sensations from the pelvis area down. They faced away from each other and were of unequal size at birth. Christine weighed in at an estimated 12 pounds while the weaker Millie was only estimated to be five pounds. Before they were a year old they had been purchased and become lucrative moneymakers for a succession of owners. In the course of "her" lifetime, Millie-Christine (referred to equally as often in the singular and in the plural) was presented before Queen Victoria three times, worked as part of P. T. Barnum's sideshow, performed throughout Europe and the U.S., and provided enough funds for "her" father to purchase farmlands to support the rest of the family. When freed by Lincoln's declaration in 1863, the girls remained with their last owners, the Smith family, under whose management and care "she" continued "her" performing career. Mrs. Smith's tutelage enabled the girls to learn to read and write, to play the piano, sing and dance, and eventually speak five languages. This story offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of "freak show" inhabitants in the 19th century. Photos and reproductions from the time, and the words of Millie and Christine bring the time period to life. These indomitable, remarkable, and courageous women will capture readers' hearts.
Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: John F. Blair Publisher (February 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0895871882
  • ASIN: B0044KMUAK
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,823,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By K. A. Peterson on August 31, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'm so glad that this book was written! I read another book years ago about the freak show circuit in which that author dismissed Millie-Christine as an obscure act about which very little was known. Wrong!
Joanne Martel has found a rich trove of information about the conjoined twins, and she presents it in an interesting way. Photographs show the twins at different stages of their development. There are exerpts from newspaper accounts,handbills from their performances, family letters, etc. This author really did her homework to produce this solid work.
While exhibiting "human oddities" is distasteful to us today, this book shows how Millie-Christine's life was not entirely horrific. The twins led a dignified life in the show business world. Born as slaves in 1851, they were lifted up from that life and were educated and taught to perform pretty songs and light amusements for the benefit of their audience. They were adept in social chatter, and were able to converse with adults and children in all walks of life. They traveled through Europe at an early age and met famous people and nobility.
They were able to contribute to their family's support immediately after th Civil War, when the entire family found themselves free. Without the income provided by his twins, their father would not have been able to buy his parcels of land in North Carolina.
Their specialness did cause unfortunate events in their lives. When young children, they were removed from their mother's care and sold to a showman who later lost custody. They passed through several hands, and ended up the wards of a kind and generous man who cared for them and their entire family.
The constant prodding and poking of physicians, especially trying to the young girls as they approached womanhood, was a source of sorrow and embarassment.
This is a good, readable account of two girls born into an interesting situation during interesting times. Recommended!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Millie-Christine deserves ongoing recommendation, providing the remarkable story of Siamese twins who were born into slavery in 1851 and who moved from slavery to the courts of Europe during their lives. Twice sold and kidnapped as a child, Millie-Christine traveled throughout Europe and earned a fortune.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
This amazing, fascinating true tale deserves more attention than it has gotten from the press and review sources. Author Joanne Martel does a terrific job of not only telling Millie-Christine's story, but also of detailing the world she lived in.
Much more interesting than the original Siamese twings Chang and Eng, her life crossed theirs and they even exhibited together for a time. Why their story survived in popular culture and hers is largely lost is a mystery. This is a remarkable story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Janet Croom on May 4, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Too much focus on background; not enough on the girls themselves. Completed this book only because I had never heard of Millie-Christine and wanted to learn about them from the "Black History" viewpoint not because the book was exciting.
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