JEAN CAROLL – Love Hurts


What would you do for love?

In her time, Jean Carroll was a popular bearded lady. More importantly, Carroll was the real deal. Born in 1910 in Schenectady, New York Jean Carroll possessed the genuine foundation of a fine silken beard at the age of ten, when she joined the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. As she aged, that foundation of follicles flourished and soon provided Carroll with a stable career in carnival exhibition.

As a young lady Carroll met a charming young Ohio man and quickly fell in love. The object of her affection was John Carson. Carson was a charming and handsome man. He was a contortionist and sideshow talker and he was actually quite taken by the sweet-hearted bearded girl. He was certainly attracted to Carroll but the beard was simply too much for him to overcome. While he continued to be friendly with Carroll, he pushed aside any romantic aspirations and focused on friendship.

For fifteen years the two saw each other almost daily. As Carson got to know Carroll for the woman she was, behind the whiskers, he fell deeply in love with her. Carroll saw that love in him and it pained her. She knew he would never be able to accept the beard and she, in turn, could not give up her source of livelihood and her home in the carnival. As she cried one night, sword swallower Alec Linton suggested a painful solution.

“Shave the beard and become a tattooed woman.”


Soon, the beard was gone and in its place were over 700 intricate designs by famed tattooist Charlie Wagner. The pain involved in the process was likely excruciating but the investment was wise. John Carson was completely smitten, apparently having no problems with illustration over facial hair, and the two wed almost immediately following the ‘close shave’.

They remained with the carnival. John continued on in his old job as a charming sideshow talker and Jean Carroll exhibited her new tattoos quite thoroughly, as a burlesque dancer.

The two remained inseparable until John’s passing in 1951.

image: Jean Carroll with husband John Carson. Inset, the bearded Jean Carroll. Image courtesy of James G. Mundie.

Read more about Jean Carroll in American Sideshow.


  • Reply February 20, 2008



  • Reply June 8, 2008


    Very neat story.

  • Reply March 22, 2009


    wow that s really really sweet in an odd way

  • Reply May 4, 2009


    Ah, come on… tattoos don’t hurt That much. ;)

  • Reply August 18, 2009


    Well, that’s a different kind of love story. Still cute ,though. :)

  • Reply September 17, 2010


    Aww what a sweet story.

  • Reply October 16, 2010


    seems that feelings were stronger at that time despite of mutated genes

  • Reply March 2, 2011


    That was lovely! I am so glad I found this site. :)

  • Reply September 26, 2011

    Sky Sukinaka

    Willing to give in so much pain for the man she loved. <3

  • Reply December 18, 2011


    As much as I find this story adorable, I can’t help but feel like Carson is rude and ignorant. If he loved her so much but the beard alone did that “love” in… well, it just seems silly. I’m glad Caroll was happy with her decision to shave it, though, I guess.

    • Reply December 9, 2012


      Is it really any different than how society today dislikes beards? Or if a wife requests her husband shave his? I personally dislike beards, on anyone, because they’re food catchers, as well as lots of other air born particles, like germs, dust, skin flakes, spit…..

      Beards have been out of fashion for around 100 years, so why if most men shave theirs, is it so shameful that a woman shave her’s? Just because it’s uncommon? Most women shave their pits and legs, is that shameful too?

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