Clémentine Clattaux was born on 5 March 1865 in Chamousey near Charmes in Lorraine, Eastern France. During the late 19th and early 20th century she was one of the most famously celebrated “bearded ladies” in Europe.
In 2005 her private memoirs were discovered in a garage sale and were bought for “a very modest sum” by Roland Marchal, a second-hand dealer and collector from Bellefontaine in the Vosges. Written in violet ink in a school exercise book and decorated with spectacular photographs and press cuttings from the period, Clementine, who was believed not to have been able to write very well, dictated her memoirs to Pol Ramber, a reporter from the local newspaper, La Libert de l’Est, in the 1930s. The text is written in his hand and is signed by him.
The 50-page document provides a fascinating insight into the life of an extraordinary woman who, far from suffering from her generous abundance facial hair, took great delight in it and used it to her advantage.
“I had a magnificent beard, curly and abundant which spread out in a double plume,” she related with obvious pride in her memoirs, which recount how her facial hair began growing while she was still a teenager.
“How did my beard grow? I don’t know,” she said. “But I can assure you that at 18 years of age my upper lip was already decorated with a promising down which agreeably enhanced my brunette skin tone.”
In 1885, she married a local baker, changed her name to Delait and opened a cafe and bakery in the village of Taon-les-Vosges. Until that point Clementine had conscientiously shaved off her beard every day, but while working at the cafe she made a bet with a customer to let it grow.
“The success was immediate … they were all crazy about me,” her memoirs state.
She promptly renamed her premises “Caf de la Femme Barbe” (Cafe of the Bearded Woman).
Clementine had a brother Auguste, who also boasted a magnificent beard, although her memoirs record that she always believed hers to be more beautiful than his.