vintage, nostalgia and memories


November 13, 2017

Between Training and Resting: Stunning Vintage Photographs Capture Daily Life of the Circus Girls of Sarasota in 1949

In 1949, LIFE magazine sent famed photographer Nina Leen to document the daily life of a sassy troupe of young women who had run off and joined the famous Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, Fla. What developed was a portrait of a sisterhood formed over acrobatics that mixed high-flying wire acts with fashionable high-waisted shorts.

Sarasota was once considered “the home of the American circus.” Leen’s stunning photos reflect an apparently carefree lifestyle of independent single women flourishing during a time in American history when most women were expected to marry instead of having careers. Leen went behind the scenes just seven years before the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows announced it would no longer be performing inside tents.

A group of circus girls taking a ride in a circus vehicle during a rehearsal for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

LIFE visits the circus in Florida- Acrobats and stage performers in various stages of action in 1949.

An acrobat practicing on a tent rope while an unidentified woman is standing nearby during a rehearsal for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

An acrobat holding an umbrella and rehearsing on a rope for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

An acrobat rehearsing for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus while an unidentified man holding a rope in Sarasota in 1949.

A circus girl sitting on a ladder during a rehearsal for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

A circus girl sitting on the ground and applying cream on a wound during a rehearsal for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

A circus girl standing near a pole while an unidentified man is holding a rope during a rehearsal for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

An aerialist rehearsing with a rope for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

A picture of a circus girl sitting and holding a dog during a rehearsal for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

An aerialist rehearsing for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus while a circus girl is holding a rope in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

Life Visits the Circus in Florida- Acrobats / Performers in various stages of action in 1949.

An acrobat practicing with a tent rope while two girls are sitting nearby during a rehearsal for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

An aerialist smoking while rehearsing for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

Three circus girls relaxing near a pole during a rehearsal for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

Three circus girls sitting on a wooden plank and watching a group of aerialists rehearsing with ropes for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

A picture of a group of circus girls sitting at a rehearsal for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

A picture of a circus girl sitting on the head of an elephant during a rehearsal for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

A circus girl standing at a door of a circus vehicle during a rehearsal for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, FL in 1949.

((Photos by Nina Leen/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images, via Washington Post)

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