The University of Wisconsin Press

Autobiography / Women's Studies / African American Studies / Popular Culture


Conjoined Twins in Black and White
The Lives of Millie-Christine McKoy and Daisy and Violet Hilton

Edited by Linda Frost

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
William L. Andrews, General Editor

“Linda Frost is careful not to treat these women as subjects of pity, disgust, or intrigue but as humans with challenging and unusual circumstances.”
—Margaret E. Kansa, great-great-great-granddaughter of Eng Bunker, one of the original Siamese Twins

Conjoined twins have long been a subject of fantasy, fascination, and freak shows. In this first collection of its kind, Millie-Christine McKoy, African American twins born in 1851, and Daisy and Violet Hilton, English twins born in 1908, speak for themselves through memoirs that help us understand what it is like to live physically joined to someone else.

Conjoined Twins in Black and White provides contemporary readers with the twins’ autobiographies, the first two “show histories” to be republished since their original appearance, a previously unpublished novella, and a nineteenth-century medical examination, each of which attempts to define these women and reveal the issues of race, gender, and the body prompted by the twins themselves. The McKoys, born slaves, were kidnapped and taken to Britain, where they worked as entertainers until they were reunited with their mother in an emotional chance encounter. The Hiltons, cast away by their horrified mother at birth, worked the carnival circuit as vaudeville performers until the WWII economy forced them to the burlesque stage. The hardships, along with the triumphs, experienced by these very different sister sets lend insight into our fascination with conjoined twins.

“A delight to read. Frost shows what can be accomplished by taking people who are too often dismissed as irrelevant, too fringe to be taken seriously, and embracing them as subjects of cultural analysis.”
—Robert Bogdan, Syracuse University

Linda Frost is associate professor of English and director of the Honors Program at Eastern Kentucky University. She is author of Never One Nation: Freaks, Savages, and Whiteness in U.S. Popular Culture, 1850–1877.

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The cover of Frost's book is blue, with old photos of the two pairs of conjoined twins. One set of twins is white and one is black.

June 2009
LC: 2008041889 QM
248 pp.   6 x 9  
14 b/w illus.

Paper $29.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-23074-6 
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The stories of these conjoined twins are both fascinating and troubling, not only for what they tell us about their difficult lives but what they have to say about a culture of spectacle and commodification.”
—Minrose Gwin, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


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