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A bearded lady or bearded woman is a woman who has a visible beard. These women have long been a phenomenon of legend, curiosity, or ridicule.
A relatively small number of women are able to grow enough facial hair to have a distinct beard. In some cases, female beard growth is the result of a hormonal imbalance (usually androgen excess), or a rare genetic disorder known as hypertrichosis. Sometimes it is caused by use of anabolic steroids. Cultural pressure leads most to remove it, as it may be viewed as a social stigma.
Notable exceptions were the famous bearded women of the circus sideshows of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Barnum's Josephine Clofullia and Ringling Bros.' Jane Barnell, whose anomalies were celebrated. Sometimes circus and carnival freak shows presented bearded ladies who were actually women with facial wigs or bearded men dressed as women, both practices being lampooned by comedian and former circus performer W.C. Fields in the 1939 film, You Can't Cheat an Honest Man.
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