sooner had Margaret and Mary come into the world, than their
parents, John and Margaret, were approached from all angles by
surgeons wanting to try their hand at separating the "Holyoke
Siamese Twins". Twice - once when the twins were born and again
when they were three years old - the Gibbs fended off the men
with the scalpels, preferring to raise their daughters as Nature
had made them. The Gibbs raised the girls at home, in relative
seclusion, and brought in private tutors to educate them. At the
age of 14, the sisters struck out on their own, moving to New
York City to pursue a vaudeville career. It was this same year
that a severe case of influenza threatened Mary's life, and the
possibility of separating them to save Margaret was discussed in
earnest. However, the twins overcame their illness, with
Margaret all the while speaking words of encouragement to her
1928, Margaret Gibb was stricken with another "bug": romance.
The name of her suitor was never revealed to the papers, but it
seemed he would only have her if she were separated from Mary.
The twins checked in to New York's West Park Hospital and sought
the skills of Dr. Francis P. Weston, a prominent surgeon.
Newspapers were quick to glom on to the "danger" aspect of the
proposed operation, and speculated that the twins, if they
survived, might never walk again, having previously relied on
one another for balance. Although Margaret's love affair was the
alleged cause of the twins' decision, the sturdier Mary was
favored as the survivor, and gossip columns mused about whether
or not she would marry Margaret's beau instead. Weston himself
gave the twins only a 50% chance of survival, but on August 13,
1928, it was announced that he would separate Mary and Margaret.
Things weren't as they seemed, however. Though the twins
remained in New York, no progress was made toward separating
them, and a few days after his groundbreaking announcement, an
indignant Dr. Weston declared that he was postponing the
operation until the papers stopped reporting the story! Mary and
Margaret, he said, had been "disturbed" by the publicity
surrounding the case and their "nervous condition" had made them
poor candidates for surgery. Then, the same day, Weston
announced that a conference with an "undisclosed surgeon" caused
him to change his mind - and that Margaret and Mary would be
The Gibbs never were in any danger, of course - I suspect this
sensational story was the concoction of their publicists, since
the twins were fiercely opposed to separation. Margaret did
become engaged, a year later, to Carlos Daniel Josefe, a wealthy
young man from Mexico City. Josefe became smitten with Margaret
while the twins were appearing in New Orleans. The young couple
applied for a marriage license in Newark, but no wedding ever
For the remainder of the decade and on into the 1930s, the Gibb
twins remained in the public eye as vaudeville and circus stars.
They travelled with the Barnum and Cole Brothers Circuses as
"America's Siamese Twins", appearing in Paris, Germany and
Switzerland as well as all over the United States.
1942 they returned to Holyoke and opened the Mary-Margaret Gift
Shoppe, selling cards, novelties, vases and baby clothes they
had made. The shop stayed in business until 1949 when the twins
retired from public life altogether. After this they were rarely
seen except when travelling to and from church. Their main
interests were said to be knitting and watching television.
Always the weaker sister, Margaret began to suffer health
problems as the twins aged. She underwent two surgical
operations, one in 1946 to remove a bladder stone and another in
1953 to remove a fibrous tumor. Their surgeon, Dr. Frank Lahey,
said "They are two of the nicest people you ever met in your
life." In 1966 it was discovered that Margaret had cancer in her
bladder, which, over the next year, spread to her lungs;
however, the sisters still adamantly refused separation. On
August 29, 1967, Margaret died, and Mary died two minutes later.