Clementine Delait was a famous Frenchwoman for many reasons, but today she is best known as the hairy lady. Even though she didn’t start her job this way, her beard helped her get where she wanted to go in life. Most women wouldn’t like this about their bodies because they might think it’s not feminine, but Delait liked her facial hair from the start.
Find out how her beautiful beard helped her run her businesses.Delait has been the subject of many French works and a source of strange interest for more than a hundred years. The pictures of her in Edwardian clothes with a big beard and well-styled hair look like they came from a love scrapbook from another world. She is photographed in parks, at her vanity, and with dogs, which she loved.
During World War I, models struck these same delicate poses for postcards that Allied soldiers could buy to send home. But it should be mentioned that Delait had a permit that let her wear men’s clothes if she wanted to. It was illegal for a woman to wear men’s clothes without a permit from the government.Delait was born Clementine Clatteaux on a farm in Thaon-les-Vosges, France, in 1865.
She later remembered that her skin was often brown from the sun, which she thought looked good with the thick mustache she was growing as a teenager. “My youth was rough and hardworking, like all the girls in the country, but at 18 my upper lip already had a promising down that nicely showed off my brown complexion,” she said. Today, people read books and go to treatment for years to get this kind of confidence.
Hirsutism can be caused by many different things, like ovarian cysts, drugs, or Cushing’s disease. It is thought to affect between 5 and 10% of women today, but at the turn of the 20th century, medicine was a very different area and not much was known about how hormones work in our bodies. Delait knew that a thick beard was not what most men thought of when they thought of a beautiful wife, so she shaved her face for years.
In 1885, when she was 20, she married Joseph Delait, a baker. The couple never had children of their own. Instead, they adopted Fernande, a little girl from Spain whose parents had died in the Spanish flu epidemic. Everyone said that Delait was a good mother.The Delaits ran a bakery for many years, but their lives changed in 1900 when Delait got mad at a sideshow act.
The artist was a woman with a beard, but Delait didn’t think the beard was strong enough to be called a beard. Later, Delait got into an argument with a customer about it, and she bet him that she could grow a better beard than that. According to some reports, she made the bet with her husband. In just two weeks, Delait grew a long, thick beard that all of her customers came to see.
The couple then opened a cafe, which they called Café de La Femme à Barbe, or Cafe of the Bearded Woman. Her beard was now a selling point that helped them grow their business. Sideshows and fairs came up to Delait and offered to hire her to tour with them. But she didn’t want to leave her husband and children, and her husband’s health was getting worse. She wanted to stay so she could take care of her husband and run the cafe.
Her beard gave her a lot of power with rude customers. Delait’s solution was to sell a lot of photos in her cafe as mementos that showed people had been to the famous bearded lady’s business. In her diaries, she says, “It never occurred to me that I could only be a curious woman on display. I was much more and much better than that.”
After her husband died in 1928, Delait finally agreed to go on tour, even though she was worried about the few white hairs that were starting to show up in her smooth beard. In her last years, when her health was getting worse, her loving daughter took care of her. Delait died in 1934, and she wanted her headstone to say “La Femme a Barbe” because she was proud of her beard and wanted to be known for it.