World of Wonders: Background information when reading The Electric Woman

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The Electric Woman

A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts

by Tessa Fontaine

The Electric Woman by Tessa Fontaine X
The Electric Woman by Tessa Fontaine
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  • Published:
    May 2018, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

World of Wonders

This article relates to The Electric Woman

In her memoir, The Electric Woman, Tess Fontaine recounts her experiences working for a five-month long season with World of Wonders, the last traditional traveling sideshow in the United States.

As the name implies, sideshows are smaller acts that are part of a larger fair or circus. According to the International Independent Showmen's Museum, sideshows in the United States had their origins in the Chicago World Fair of 1893. Smaller permanent fairs, annual state fairs and traveling shows emerged after the World Fair closed, and sideshows were part of the offerings from the start. At one time, hundreds toured the country.

Sideshows have always featured performers who had unusual physical talents, such as contortionists or those who could swallow swords or eat fire. In the beginning, they relied heavily on displaying those with physical deformities such as dwarfism or giantism. As movies and television gained popularity and as the public's sensibilities regarding those with ...

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