The Marvelous Hairy Girls (Hardcover)

The Gonzales Sisters and Their Worlds

By Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, Professor

Yale University Press, 9780300127331, 248pp.

Publication Date: June 1, 2009

List Price: 35.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


This book tells the extraordinary story of three sixteenth-century sisters who, along with their father and brothers, were afflicted with an extremely rare genetic condition that made them unusually hairy. Amazingly, the Gonzales sisters were not mocked or shunned, but were welcomed in the courts of Europe, spending much of their lives among nobles, musicians, and artists. Their double identity as humans and beasts made them intriguing, and the girls and their father were the subjects not only of medical investigations but also of a considerable number of portraits, some of which still hang in European castles today.Using the Gonzales family as a lens, historian Merry Wiesner-Hanks examines their varied and wondrous times. The story of this family connects with every important change of their erapolitical and religious violence, colonial conquest, new forms of scholarship and scienceand also provides insights into the complex relationships between beastliness, monstrosity, and gender in early modern life.

About the Author

Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks is Distinguished Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her many books include "Christianity and Sexuality in the Early Modern World" and the prize-winning "Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe," now in its third edition. She lives in Mequon, WI.

Praise For The Marvelous Hairy Girls: The Gonzales Sisters and Their Worlds

"A stimulating and innovative book."—Charles Zilka, author of The Book of Witchcraft
-Charles Zilka

"The Marvelous Hairy Girls is a wonderful book, meticulously researched, witty and beautifully written. It takes the reader on a journey into the ordinary world of marvelous monsters, strange women and astonishing events. Wiesner-Hanks offers us a very different glimpse into the sixteenth century and its inhabitants, which ultimately offers us a different vision of ourselves. There is something to stimulate and fascinate on every page." - Barbara Creed, author of The Monstrous-Feminine

-Barbara Creed

"Wiesner-Hanks uses her subjects to explore Renaissance notions of the marvelous and the miraculous."—The New Yorker 

"Merry Wiesner-Hanks...uses art, historical records, and scientific treatises to piece together the first comprehensive account of the Gonzaleses'' lives and times."—Ann Landi, ARTnews
-Ann Landi

" enjoyable read, packed with fascinating bits."—David Luhrssen, The Shepherd Express
-David Luhrssen