Tag Archives: eating-disorders

The Victorian Fasting Girls- Thanks to Dennis Riggs

The Victorian Fasting Girls-  Thanks to Dennis Riggs


The Wonder (2022) - IMDb

November 2022-I just watched The Wonder on Netflix.  Fasting girls were a reality . So what happened to these young women? Some were put under surveillance and exposed as hoaxers; some were imprisoned, hospitalised, coerced into eating or force-fed. Some starved to death, and others managed to live for many decades, apparently without food. In many cases a girl was briefly mentioned in a newspaper, and then faded from the historical record, keeping her secrets. There are two parts to this:

The Fasting Girls — Part 2- Josephine Marie Bedard of Quebec

Yesterday I mentioned The Victorian Fasting Girls. They were young girls who supposedly stopped eating for months and even years at a time, were somewhat of a phenomenon from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. 

Dennis Riggs commented on one of my stories yesterday –The media would publicize it as means of capitalizing on it. Newspapers and others would pay for such, and the girls could become famous attractions that people would pay to see. Many were put on display, you could watch them not eat for anywhere from a nickel to fifty cents, depending on the social strata the family inhabited.

The base incentive being financial, circumstances that led people there were varied but tended to end in similar horrors. Some of the girls were starved to death, in one instance resulting in a conviction against the parents. One not-uncommon thread was that many fasting girls and young women were paralyzed or infirm due to accidents or illness. They were not able to be otherwise commodified by the family, unable to be married off, so were considered of diminished value.

Many medical personnel were complicit or in on it, claiming to have observed x person for x amount of time. Others were overzealous in their supposed pursuit of answers for the phenomenon. One of the children that were starved to death died during round-the-clock observation by doctors after her family claimed she existed without food for many months. She died in just 6 days when gaurded round-the-clock, as no one could surreptitiously feed her, and she refused to ask for food before lapsing into an unconscious state after a few days, dying a few days later.

While only famous cases are much remembered today, it’s speculated that there were many more than those, many who were not made famous but who were harmed or killed in the attempt to be recognized as a fasting girl.

There’s a book that makes a solid case for these being identifiable early examples of Anorexia Nervosa, which is entirely plausible even with all other known circumstances intact. Doubtless it may have been that incidents of children considered fasting girls began as children suffering and refusing food, swaying from reality only with claims that they lived.

And now I’ll stop typing out this horror story, coffee break is over.


Fasting girls” were a fad for a while. They were the talk of every newspaper – the stories of girls who, supposedly, could survive without food or water. For some reason, it was very fashionable to survive on nothing but air. These girls would pretend to eat nothing, widely publicize it for attention, and then stuff their faces in secret. Why? Probably just because people are weird. One popular case of this was the case of Mollie Fancher. According to the papers, she survived fourteen years without eating a thing.

When she was just 18, Brooklynite Mollie Fancher was the victim of a carriage accident that left her paralyzed. As she was exiting a carriage, her long skirt got caught on a hook. The carriage driver didn’t notice and dragged her for nearly a block before bystanders could get him to stop. A few months after the incident, Fancher confined herself to her bed and allegedly stopped eating for the next 16 years.

Observers claimed they never saw her consume food or drink, and at one point her stomach had “collapsed, so that by placing the hand in the cavity her spinal column could be felt.” She also went blind, but continued to produce intricate embroidery and detailed wax flowers. Oh yeah, Fancher also claimed to be clairvoyant. Doctors and spiritualists argued over whether “the Brooklyn Enigma” was a miracle or a fraud, but after a period of time it didn’t matter. By the late 1880s or early 1890s, she started eating in front of people again. Most of her other symptoms disappeared and she lived a rather unremarkable life until her non-starving-related death in 1916.

Across the pond from Mollie lived “the Welsh fasting girl,” Sarah Jacob. After suffering from convulsions sometime in 1866, Sarah began eating miniscule amounts of food and spent her days in bed, writing poems. Her parents claimed that she completely stopped eating as of October 10, 1867. Word spread quickly and Sarah became a celebrity, with newspapers writing about her and people traveling from across the country to witness this supposed little miracle. Accounts noted that they had never seen a girl who was such a picture of great health—her eyes were clear, her cheeks were rosy, and she even began to gain weight.

While some were inclined to believe that Sarah was miraculous, others believed that her parents were in on the whole scheme, secretly feeding her when the public was gone. Some thought that her sister passed her food when they kissed, like a mama bird. Eventually doctors asked to monitor Sarah around the clock, and whether they truly believed that their daughter was existing on air or were just unwilling to give up the ghost, Hannah and Evan Jacob allowed it. Six nurses were brought in to watch Sarah around the clock and were instructed to give Sarah food if she asked for it, but otherwise do nothing. Sarah refused to ask for food, and after four or five days, she lapsed into unconsciousness. She starved to death on December 12, 1869. An autopsy found the bones of a small bird or fish in her stomach, proving that she had been eating small amounts of food when no one was looking. Her parents were convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison.


        1. Page 3 -

          Clipped from

          1. Ottawa Daily Citizen,
          2. 14 Sep 1875, Tue,
          3. Page 2

            Also read-

            The Fasting Girls — Part 2- Josephine Marie Bedard of Quebec


          4. And Suddenly I Became Sad for NO Reason at All….

          5. What Becomes of a Broken Heart?

To “Just Katy” – The Girl With the Dexatrim Smile – Zoomers



To “Just Katy” – The Girl With the Dexatrim Smile – Zoomers.


“Once upon a time I used to look into the mirror and wish I was thirty pounds lighter. The mirror taunted me and seemed to laugh back at my image in the mirror. I, like a lot of other women have always hated the way I look.”