Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Dawson, Sandra T.

Degree Name

B.A. (Bachelor of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


This thesis examines the life and career of Norah O’Hagan, who left Newcastle, England in 1926, to join the circus. Norah was a coal miner’s daughter born into impoverished circumstances. Her future was severely limited by crippling economic and social conditions caused by her lower class origins, her diminutive size and her gender. Norah’s father’s personal and financial circumstances were dire as a result of the General Strike of 1926. He allowed Norah to join a vaudeville troupe - John Lester’s Midget Circus. Eventually, she joined an aerial act, the Flying Herzogs, touring Europe, the United States, and Mexico. Secondary sources include histories of the British mining industry, and of the 1920s-1940s and include sociological sources about coal miners’ lives, and information about the effects on the participants of the General Strike of 1926, augmented by newspaper clippings and memoirs. This thesis highlights the personal trauma caused by the General Strike as well as the accomplishments of a remarkable young woman who transcended her circumstances. Joining the circus presented an unusual solution to the problems of poverty and class. Norah was a talented daughter whose future was severely compromised by her social class and physical size.

Final.doc (890 kB)


60 pages




Northern Illinois University

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