Myrtle Corbin was called a monster, but her life was a story of kind-heartedness and warmth.
Mother nature is impossible to understand. It gifts and curses according to its own whims and desires, and we have no say in its matters. We are given a body at birth and we have to live out our days in it. It is neither fair nor justifiable that one person is born with a perfect genetic composition into a rich family, while someone else is born with multiple hereditary diseases into a poor family. That, however, is life, and there is nothing that can be done about it.
Myrtle was born in May 1868. There were complications in her birth since she was born in the breech position. This can often result in complications for both the child and the mother. Both mother and baby survived the birth. Myrtle was born a very healthy baby. There was only one thing odd about her; from the waist down, she had two bodies.
She had four legs, combined with their separate private parts, and a single upper body. Medical researchers tried their best to understand her condition, and each one of them gave it their own complex name. A doctor even used the word ‘monster,’ describing her as a ‘female, belonging to the mono cephalic class of monsters by fusion.’
Myrtle became a performer in a sideshow circuit when she was only 13 years old. She was named ‘The Four-Legged Woman’ and was marketed as ‘gentle of disposition as the summer sunshine and as happy as the day is long.’
What was truly unique about her was the fact that she could do everything a normal person could do, and her two extra legs disabled her in no way whatsoever. Although she could move her two shorter legs in the centre, they were far too weak to carry her weight. However, she could walk perfectly well with her two outer legs.
Myrtle married at nineteen and became pregnant, a year after the marriage. She then became sick. She constantly had fevers and could not stop vomiting. When the foetus was four months old, the doctor suggested she should get an abortion since her life was in danger. After running some tests, the doctors found out that the foetus was in the left uterus. This surprised Myrtle and she said that ‘if it had been on my right side I would come nearer to believing you are correct.’ It was apparent from her comment that she used the right side of her body for sexual intercourse. The abortion was successful, and after her recovery, Myrtle had children with her husband with no complications.
Myrtle was described in the British Medical Journal in 1889, in the following words: ‘She is about five feet high, has fair skin, blue eyes, and curly hair, and is very intelligent. A stranger, to see her in company, would only think her unusually broad across her hips, and with the carriage usual to one with clubbed foot. I have known Mrs. B. since she was a tiny child, as the ‘four-legged girl,’ but never realized the perfect dual development of both external and internal genital organs until she became my patient in case of pregnancy.’
Myrtle was a medical phenomenon that the world had never seen before. She lived a full, normal life, with a loving husband and children, despite the apparent disability she was born with.
She died in May 1928, and her family had to enclose her casket in a concrete box to protect her from grave robbers. Her family was even offered a substantial sum of money for her remains by collectors and scientists. They refused the sum since they believed Myrtle should be allowed to rest in peace like a normal person.
People were initially attracted to her because of the strange nature of her physique, but they stayed around her because of her gentle and loving nature. She was an intelligent woman who lived her best life, even though she was called a freak and a monster by many. She is a symbol of hope for everyone. Her story reminds us that one can overcome any shortcoming if one just has the right outlook on life.
London Crime Fiction Books by Paul Asling
For those who seek a story of crime and love.
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