The Victorian Teenage Girl Who Entertained Crowds by Overpowering Men
In late 1883, a 15-year-old girl from Polk County, Georgia began a fast climb to national prominence through her exhibitions of a physical strength that appeared to be entirely out of proportion to her willowy frame. She claimed to have gained this seemingly supernatural strength, which she referred to as “the Power,” “the Force” and “the Great Unknown,” during a violent electrical storm.
Within months, Lulu Hurst had progressed from local exhibitions to the vaudeville circuit. Promoted as the “Georgia Wonder” and the “Magnetic Girl,” she soon became a top-billed performer, sometimes earning more in a single show than most Americans made in a year. At a time when the standard vaudeville fare largely consisted of singers, dancers, comedians and the occasional juggler or acrobat—and when women were widely believed to be weak and delicate—the spectacle of a teenage girl apparently hurling stalwart men around the stage made for a diverting evening’s entertainment.