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January 24, 2021

Portraits of MME Abomah “the African Giantess”, the Tallest Lady in the World

Ella Williams who went by the showbiz name of Mme Abomah was once the world’s tallest hot and beautiful lady in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, reportedly 7ft 6 inches (2.28 meters). Though she was born in South Carolina in USA, her show managers claims she was born in Dahomey (now Republic of Benin).

 “I was born near Cross Hill in Laurens county. None of my sisters or brothers are unusually large. For years every time a show man saw me he would want  me to sign a contract, but I never could make up my mind to leave Columbia. Finally in the fall of 1896 while I was cooking for a prominent family in Columbia, Manager F.C. Bostock got me to sign up for a tour.” – Mme Abomah once said in 1915.

Born in October of 1865, Ella Grigsby narrowly missed being born a slave as the 13th Amendment to the U.S Constitution was ratified only 10 months previous. Ella came to work for Elihu and Harriet Williams when as a teenager. Perhaps because Grigsby was the family name of her parent’s slave holders Ella took the Williams surname as her own. The “tour” that Frank Bostock signed Ella up for was a tour of the British Isles. Bostock understood that Ella’s act would not go over well in her native country because at that time another Ella – Ella Ewing – a white giantess from Missouri was touring.  Racism in Europe was not as pronounced as in the States so Miss Williams was ultimately to find greater success on foreign soil.

Like so many performers of her time Abomah’s manager mixed a little fact with fiction in promoting his ward. Her stage name came from Abomey, the capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey (now Benin).  Abomah was initially promoted as being one of the legendary Dahomey Amazons, which was a real, all female fighting force that existed right up to the time the giantess began touring. “One of King Dahomey’s Amazons who has been brought over to England for show purposes is a giantess indeed. Her height is eight feet, and she is both broad and muscular.” – American press, June 1900.

During her 30-year-career, Abomah did not only tour Britain but most of continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Cuba, and South America. Abomah also had very expensive and extensive clothing, making the Amazon Giantess always appear elegant and royal.

When Britain declared war on Germany in August 1914, Abomah cancelled her tours and came back to the U.S in March 1915. In later years, now an ageing and destitute pensioner, she appeared in the Coney Island sideshow and with Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Congress of Freaks.


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