The Girl Who Lived on Air
Published by Seren
In 1869, Sarah Jacob caused a national furore as ‘the Welsh Fasting Girl’ – this was a girl who seemed to be living on air, having eaten nothing since her 12th birthday in mid-May. Sarah’s story was headline news; gifts and donations flooded the family home in Carmarthenshire; nurses were sent from Guy’s Hospital. But after only a few weeks of medical supervision, Sarah died, and the shocking truth was revealed: that she had secretly been given food before the nurses arrived. Sarah’s parents were charged with murder, eventually convicted of manslaughter.
Was Sarah an anorexic at the centre of a lucrative scam, driven by a hungry media and her parents’ greed? Examining the medical and legal issues surrounding Sarah’s case, Stephen Wade gives a haunting glimpse into the ways science, superstition and the cult of celebrity collided in the late 19th century.
Stephen Wade is the author of twenty books on crime and law in history, with a special interest in regional crime stories. He teaches History at the University of Hull