Born in 1841 to white parents of relatively tall stature, Mercy Lavinia Bump—later known as Lavinia Warren—was, at the age of 10, just 2 feet tall and weighed only 20 pounds.
Although Lavinia initially taught school when she reached the age of 16, a river showboat operator persuaded her to join his troupe as a “living curiosity.” The onset of the Civil War soon put an end to that kind of entertainment. Later, P.T. Barnum convinced her to join his New York City museum, where she attracted large admiring audiences. While working for Barnum, she met another little person, Charley Stratton, who toured as “Tom Thumb.” Charley and Lavinia married just months later and toured through most of the rest of their lives, enjoying the unique experiences that their travels offered. Numerous period illustrations accompany the interesting story. Although the interleaved inclusion of some historical (occasionally oversimplified) information helps keep Lavinia’s life grounded in the context of the period, a text box introducing Massachusetts governor John Albion Andrew and his commissioning of the black 54th Massachusetts Regiment seems to have no connection to the story, serving as an instructive but unnecessary interruption. Excellent backmatter rounds out this engaging tale of an unusual and spirited woman.
Although Lavinia became famous as a “human oddity,” Raum keeps the tale focused on her lively attitude and determination to use her exceptional size to achieve a stimulating life. (Biography. 10-14)