Isabella Pinder, 35 years old, was only thirty-six inches tall. The world would have never even known she existed, if Isabella hadn’t travelled to South Florida, in April 1895. Her arrival in America caused a sensation. News of her height and age soon spread around the world. But just as quickly as she appeared, she seemingly disappeared.

Isabella became noteworthy because just one month before, on March 1, 1895, a 19-year-old woman by the name of Pauline Musters, from the Netherlands, had just died in New York. Musters at 23 inches (58 cm) tall, is recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the shortest woman ever recorded.

When Isabella arrived by boat in America, newspapers were quick to report that a new smallest woman in the world, lived in of all places, the Bahamas. Believe it or not, Isabella went to Key West to visit her cousin, “Gen” Abe Sawyer who was also a dwarf. Abe was 31 years old and 41 inches tall. Abe weighed only 55 pounds.

In 1895, the people of Spanish Wells, Eleuthera were a close knit community. Some would have said they were too close, but that’s another story.

Outsiders weren’t much welcome in those parts. Spanish Wells people kept to themselves, and that’s just how they liked it. So it is little wonder that no one knew, there was someone there, who had been afflicted with some sort of physically altering genetic disorder.

Isabella Pinder probably had the genetic disorder called achondroplasia. Achondroplasia results in dwarfism. Those with the condition have arms and legs that are are short, while the upper body is typically of normal length. Those affected have an average adult height of 131 centimetres (4 ft 4 in) for males and 123 centimetres (4 ft) for females. Other features include an enlarged head and prominent forehead. The intelligence for those with achondroplasia is, more often than not, considered generally normal.

(The North Carolinian Wednesday 17 April 1895)

Other newspapers, being cautious, just referred to Isabella Pinder as a small woman, not the world’s smallest.

(The Pine Daily Graphic, Sunday 07 April 1895)

“General” Abe Sawyer

Isabella Pinder’s cousin, “General” Abe Sawyer, was a well known South Florida preacher, lecturer, salesman and drummer. Abe Sawyer even ran for Mayor.

It is not known if Sawyer was born in The Bahamas or not. Isabella may have been visiting Key West to attend one of his lectures.

(The St. Lucie Tribune, Friday July 28, 1911)

(The Weekly Tribune Thursday 30 May 1895)