Lily and Lulu “Mamelle”
(Amazing Mamelle Sisters)
Born: Detroit, 1955

Born in Detroit, Michigan, the only children of Ruby and Pete Howard. Pete worked on the assembly line at the Ford Motor plant, Ruby was a cook and laundress for a wealthy Detroit industrialist. The Howards migrated from a small southern town in Mississippi in 1946 in search of a better life. Lily and Lulu are twins, born three minutes apart. They were born without arms or legs but with all other human functions and features. Their unfortunate deformities may have been as a result of Ruby working in a paint factory before moving East. It was in the factory the she was exposed to severely high levels of lead used in making paint. The girls’ birth defects were too much for Pete and Ruby to cope with. They turned their baby girls over to the circus when the infants were eighteen months old.

Ruby spent the rest of her life with crippling feelings of guilt, shame and overwhelming sadness. She was so overcome at times that she was confined to her bed for days on end. It was during those days confined to bed that Ruby would create a fictitious life for herself and her girls. A life filled with great wealth, glamor, adventures, excitement, family, and love. Her daughters, she would imagine, were famous stage performers in Europe and the United States, were the toast of the town in New York City, and everyone knew who they were. Pete took to drinking to drown his loneliness, getting so drunk every night that he would pass out, so that he wouldn’t think about his baby girls that he would never see again or ever know. He and Ruby stayed together, living as strangers for the rest of their lives.

It was the outside talker at the sideshow who named the girls the “Amazing Mamelle Sisters.” It sounded exotic, and had a sense of mystery. The girls did achieve fame and some fortune. They both married and had children of their own, born without any deformities. The Howard’s never saw their daughters again after they turned them over to the circus and never knew of the life that they had built for themselves.