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Evetta Matthews: The Feminist Clown

Evetta Matthews

The Feminist Clown

(Late 1800s–??)

Before we head off to the circus…


...That the “circus theme” was originally composed as a hardcore military march called “Entrance of the Gladiators”?

Seriously, listen to this and try to be intimidated by it.


Back in the 1890s, there were several female clowns on the circus circuit. Oddly, they were all advertised as the “ONLY” female clown.

Advertisers: WE LOVE TO LIE!

One such clown was Evetta Matthews (aka Evetta Mathews, Josephine Williams, and many other variations).

Born into a London circus family, Evetta shocked them all by deciding to pursue a clowning career.

Even though her dad was a clown for 40 years, this was still a surprising choice for a young lady.

So Evetta left home and performed with Barnum and Bailey, touring across the U.S.

Evetta was quoted in an 1895 newspaper article hilariously titled “A WOMAN CLOWN: She Likes It, and Has Made Quite a Success.”

She said:

“I believe that a woman can do anything for a living that a man can do, and do it just as well as a man. All my people laughed at me when I told them that I was going in to the ring as a clown. But they do not laugh now.”

Evetta also said:

“My reason for becoming a clown was to make money.”



“The chief difficulty is in making myself heard. But, then, nobody ever listens to what a clown says.” Some of Evetta’s notable clowning bits included showing off her “masculine” skills by riding a bicycle and swinging Indian clubs.

Evetta also had a bit where she sat disguised next to a male audience member, then shouted out to the ringmaster asking for a job, using her newfound “fiancee” as a negotiating pawn before revealing herself.

The newspaper reported:

“The men in the clown business rather enjoy Miss Williams's antics but they do not regard her as a serious competitor or believe that any other women are likely to follow her example.”

Sure, fellas.

Sadly, there is no Wikipedia article for Evetta! If you are a person with Wiki-skills, please help!

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