The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump – better known to the Victorian world as Mrs. General Tom Thumb – stood only thirty-two inches tall, but she is no small character. Married to General Tom Thumb, P. T. Barnum’s star and one of the biggest celebrities of the day, Vinnie never lets her size define her. Intelligent, resourceful, and self-assured, she travels the globe, charming queens and farmers alike, rather than stay at home with her quiet sister Minnie. But when Minnie, “little” like her sister, also turns to the theater, Vinnie vows to protect her from the dangers of a normal-sized world, even if doing so forces her to face her own limitations.
Although the toast of Gilded Age society, Vinnie is a little-known figure today, a classic example of a woman overshadowed in history by her husband. It was interesting to read not only about her life and escapades, but about how 19th-century America regarded the differently abled. The little people working for Barnum were celebrities, but always as oddities, as people to look at rather than people to get to know. Vinnie never accepted this; she wanted to be seen not as Barnum’s “perfect woman in miniature,” but simply as a woman. Hers is a fascinating point-of-view – a little person who refuses to see herself as disadvantaged in a big world.
This is an enjoyable read that reminds us all that, no matter what our size, our dreams are always within reach.