Wednesday, July 11, 2012
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
She was two feet, eight inches tall, but Mercy Lavinia Bump (or Mrs. Tom Thumb) was a nineteenth century icon. Vinnie was born on October 31, 1841 in Middleborough, Massachusetts, to a family of good standing. All of her siblings (except for her younger sister, Minnie) were normal sized. Vinnie had a form of proportionate dwarfism (probably caused by a pituitary disorder). She had a very loving and normal childhood, even teaching school for a short time. She left home to appear on a floating palace of curiosities and eventually crossed paths with P. T. Barnum. Barnum introduced her to General Tom Thumb and their wedding would captivate the nation, preempt coverage of the Civil War, and usher them into the White House and the company of presidents and queens. They traveled the globe, met Brigham Young, and were among the first passengers on the new Union Pacific railroad linking the country and also among the very first Americans of any size to travel to the new colony of Australia. This is a novel of the Gilded Age and one woman's public triumphs and personal tragedies. After you've read the book, you may want to explore The Lost Museum which reconstructs Barnum's American Museum in an interactive fashion, and also provides much history about Barnum and his various performers.
Vinnie died in 1919 at the age of 78, She was a remarkable person, who never let her size define her.