The story of Daisy and Violet Hilton has been captivating the hearts of people since they were born in 1908. Both girls were born healthy but joined at their hips and rear end. They were born to a single woman named Kate Skinner who was a barmaid in Brighton, England.
The story goes that when their mother saw them she screamed and felt as though she were being punished for having a child out of wedlock. She had no interest in the girls and hoped they would pass on as doctors assumed they would. With the care of Mary Hilton, Skinner's boss, the girls grew and flourished. Eventually Skinner sold her infant daughters to Hilton. A move that would alter the lives of these innocent girls.
Mary Hilton was said to have no emotional attachment to the girls at all. She would care for them but they were to call her "Auntie" and her husband "Sir". She began having people pay to see the girls starting around when they were a month or two old. She had the girls learn how to read and play musicals instruments. They were kept in line according to Daisy and Violet via abuse, were never formally schooled, and were kept under strict control.
They traveled all over the world on display and performed so well that they would get top billing. At the time carnivals and freak shows were becoming very popular so the girls were getting paid very well. After Hilton passed away the girls became the property of her daughter and her husband Meyer Meyers who was cruel and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the girls. The became one of the best vaudeville acts in the 1930's. Eventually they gained their freedom from the Meyers but there lives would only get more complicated, more scandalous and so very tragic.
This documentary (which is available on Netflix) explores and tells the story of these two beautiful and accomplished women. I learned things about them especially in their later years when they gained their freedom that I never knew about. I have not read the book The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton yet and can only assume much of the information that I learned via the documentary can be found in the book (which I want to read).
One of the biggest surprises I learned was that Daisy had a child out of wedlock herself and then gave him up for adoption. That really haunted me. Not just the giving away of your child but in knowing that having a child would make them even more so their own little family. Something they never had their entire lives.
Learning about people who gained fame, fortune, or just a plain 'ole paycheck because of their disability or their deformity is something that I am very sensitive about. I realized that when two summers ago I went to a freak show at Coney Island and I left in tears. It was very hard for me to see people fake "freakiness" by learning how to put fire down their throats or watching someone who has a physical disability using it to make money. It is just heartbreaking.
I always say to myself how lucky I was that my mother kept me and loved me even when she didn't understand why I was walking on my toes or not learning how to walk. She fought for me and worked hard to find out what I had and when she passed on my father took up the torch and by nine I was finally diagnosed with CMT. I know that if I were born in a different time with different parents I may not have lucked out.
Daisy and Violet's story is tragic but they did the best they could with what they had. I just wish there were more trust worthy and loving people in their lives than they were the cheaters, thieves, and abusers. The end of their life was spent living in a small town, working in a grocery store, and in January 1969 both had passed on.
This movie comes very, very highly recommended. I think it's important to learn their story.