Rose Foster, born severely disabled with four malformed limbs, made a living by appearing on postcards and exhibiting herself at shows and fairs. Rosina Kate, as she was christened, was born in Highfield in 1884. Despite her severe disabilities and the total lack of support then available to her working-class parents, she appears to have had a fairly happy childhood. She learned to feed and dress herself and even learned to write, holding a pencil between her toes. A surviving postcard informs us that she was just 26 inches tall; another shows her knitting.

Rose may have been exhibiting herself from the 1890s: a poster of 1910 reveals that she had already enjoyed eight consecutive seasons with the Barnum and Bailey show. In the 1920s she told an American magazine that she had travelled to all parts of the British Isles, Europe, North America and Brazil.

She married Frederick John Wilkinson in Southampton in 1919, using her full maiden name of Rosina Kate Foster Archibald.

Mr Leonard (see article below) states that she retired to live with her sister Louisa Parker in Portswood after retirement in 1937, and that she died there sometime before 1959. In fact the 1939 register shows her living with her other sister Edith Lillian and mother in Lytham St Anne's, and she died there April 2 1975. She is buried in Lytham Park Cemetery under her married name, Wilkinson.

Rose Foster

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A postcard produced by S A Chandler & Co. of Southampton and Exeter, c.1905

Further reading:

‘Rose Foster - A Remarkable Little Lady’, by A. G. K. Leonard, in Southampton Local History Forum Journal, no. 12, Summer 2007, p 35-39. (HS/h)


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