Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 38 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Nadieszda Kizenko


Circassian, Circus, Dime Museum, Freak Show, Zalumma Agra, Circassians, Women circus performers, Orientalism, Freak shows

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | United States History


The choices a society makes regarding their entertainment speak to their deeper desires, fears, and values. A uniquely nineteenth century freak show attraction known as "Circassian Girls" represented a tension in the changing world. More than an entertaining spectacle of a person from a far-flung corner of the world, Circassian Girls became constructed symbols of race, nationalism, class, and gender. Through their manufactured perfection, these performers became a caricature of white, middle-class womanhood. This paper compares the freak show performers with other descriptions of Circassian Girls through the nineteenth century, placing them into the context of perceptions of the East, their role in the institution of slavery, and what their performances meant regarding the role and responsibilities of an American woman of the middle class.