CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 6. . . .October 11, 2013
The day Anna was born at her family home in Colchester County in 1846, her parents were, as all parents are, happy to have a healthy baby. News spreads quickly through small towns, and soon the community knew about the new addition to the Swan family. Her birth was, quite literally, big news; the newborn Anna weighed an astonishing 6 kilograms (13 pounds). Anna’s parents embraced her uniqueness and the many challenges it created.
Anna grew quickly, rapidly outgrowing her bed, shoes, clothes, and desk at school. Her parents, farmers without much money and several other children to care for, made sure every effort was made to keep Anna comfortable. When Anna’s desk at school was too small for her, her father came and altered it so she could focus on learning and not her discomfort. While Anna stood out at school and was at first teased by other students, her easy-going and kind personality quickly made her friends and silenced the teasing. Her love of learning and helping others learn led her to pursue a career in education. While attending the Normal School in Truro to train to become a teacher, she found adults were much less accepting of her differences, and she returned to her parents’ home without completing her teaching certificate. This, however, was far from the end of Anna’s adventures.
P. T. Barnum was as well known, if not better known, in Anna’s time. A businessman from a neighbouring town visited P. T. Barnum in New York to tell him about Anna who he thought would be a perfect fit for Barnum’s American Museum which, along with many other subjects, had a space for oddities. Anna saw this as an opportunity to travel while being paid a very good wage. The decision to move to New York was easy, and Anna was treated with great respect at the museum where she posed and travelled around the world with other oddities, including the ‘living skeleton’, Tom Thumb who was 30” tall, compared to Anna’s 8’ (8’1” according to Barnum; he could never help exaggerating just a little), and Joseph the Great French Giant. Her job at P. T. Barnum’s American Museum allowed her to travel, make money to send home to help her family, meet the Queen of England, and find love.
Crystal Sutherland is a librarian in Halifax, NS.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.