Mignon was born in the early 1900’s, likely around 1910, with a condition called phocomelia. Phocomelia typically results in the stunting of limbs and the fusion of digits. In Mignon’s case her fingers were fused in such a way as to resemble flippers. Furthermore, as her truncated limbs forced Mignon to waddle rather than walk – her stage name of ‘The Penguin Lady’ was both apt and easily assigned.
Her name, Mignon, was not her birth name. Most reports indicate that her given name was Ruth. Mignon is the French word for ‘cute’ and she likely adopted it early in her career. In fact, for quite some time she was know as ‘Mickey Mignon’ and even today her true surname is debatable.
While Mignon often wore a two piece bathing suit to show off her unique physique, she was not content to rely on appearance alone. She learned to play the rather exotic marimba, an African instrument similar to a xylophone. She proved to be very proficient as she was not only featured in numerous sideshows, her act was also featured at the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago and the 1939 and 1940 World’s Fairs in New York.
Mignon married twice in her lifetime. She had a healthy son with her first husband, a ‘normal’ man by the last name of LaArgo and in the 1950’s she married fellow sideshow performer Earl Davis, a gnarled and crippled former acrobat known as ‘Hoppy the Frog Boy’. The two performed together for close to a decade.
Following her retirement in the 1960 Mignon disappeared from public view and the final chapters of her story remain shrouded.