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Heartbreaking Story Behind The Ugliest Woman On Earth

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

It is inconceivable the length to which a mother may go to take care of her kids. Mary Ann Bevan, for one, was a living example. After Mary was widowed, she was wondering how she might provide for her four children. She was determined to do anything for them, which led to her being cast as the "world's ugliest woman" in a freak show.

This is the narrative of her real-life concealed behind the curtains for decades:

Mary was born in December 1874 to eight kids in an impoverished home in Plaistow, East London. She was always a fighter and so she worked her way out of poverty to become a nurse. Later at the age of 29, she married Thomas Bevan and went on to have four children. Pictures of Mary Ann shot as a young woman depict a lovely brunette with delicate features.

Her attractiveness, on the other hand, did not stay long. Her appearance was radically modified due to acromegaly, a disease caused by the body manufacturing too much growth hormone.

The illness can cause an increase in the size of a person's hands and feet. It can also alter the form of the face, and Mary Ann's face grew larger and more masculine as a result. It is claimed to be an exceedingly painful disorder, with both the bones and tissues rising in size at a rapid rate.

Her physical condition elicited snide remarks on the street. Things grew even worse when her husband Thomas died 11 years after they wed. She felt helpless and feverishly attempted all she could to earn a living and maintain a roof over their heads – but her appearance rendered her unemployable.

This is when her fortunes took a big turn.

One day while scouring the newspaper, she saw an advertisement that read: “Wanted: Ugliest woman. Nothing repulsive, maimed, or disfigured. Good pay is guaranteed, and long engagement for the successful applicant. Send recent photograph.”

Without a second thought, Mary Ann sent in a recent snapshot and immediately attracted Claude Bartram’s (The European agent for the American circus, Barnum, and Bailey) attention. Mary, on the other hand, was first opposed to the concept of putting herself on display since she was shy and didn't want to be separated from her children. But then her family was at stake. They were giving her £10 per week for a year, traveling expenses, and all the money from the sale of picture postcards of herself, so she could provide for the education of her children. She hesitated but finally consented.

She began with a tour of Hampshire, but she was so successful that she was offered a job by P.T. Barnum, the circus magnate played by Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman, and so she sailed from Southampton to New York in 1920. When Mary first came in the United States, she was featured on the front pages of every New York newspaper, where she was dubbed "The Ugliest Woman on Earth."

The frenzy to see her never diminished for a long time and she went on to be the star of the show, overshadowing bearded ladies, conjoined twins, small people, giants, and individuals with physical limitations.

But someone was sane enough to speak up and tell the world about her disease. Harvey Cushing, the era's premier neurosurgeon, wrote a letter to Time magazine in 1927, expressing his displeasure at the publication's mockery of his patient's ugliness.

“Being a physician, I do not like to feel that Time can be frivolous over the tragedies of disease,” he objected.

But the show went on. Mary is claimed to have made £20,000 (which is around £500,000 now) in the next two years. This sum was sufficient to place her four children in boarding school and although she missed them horribly she often wrote to them, and knowing that their futures were safe helped her power through and let the insults bounce off her.

Mary went to Europe after a few years in 1925 to participate in a Paris show, but she spent the rest of her life in the Coney Island Dreamland Show. It is believed that she developed a terrible drinking habit during her latter years, and lost a lot of her fortune through unwise investments. She passed dead in 1933.

As per her dying wish, she is buried today at the Ladywell and Brockley Cemetery in South London. Nowadays, acromegaly is a treatable and manageable illness.

Source: Brightside

About the Writers:

Maina Zaina, Writer and a Virtual Assistant at AVCreativity Studio. She enjoys media entertainment and is an avid fan of "K-Wave". She loves her job because she is exposed to different types of entertainment. She also believes in the saying "If you want to be successful, don't seek success - seek competence, empowerment; do nothing short of the best that you can do" by Jaggi Vasudev

Pamela Elizabeth, Editor-in-Chief at AVCreativity Studio. Earned a Bachelor’s Degree of Secondary Education Major in English. She loves going on little adventures alongside reading good books. She is enthusiastic about her work and ensures that her clients receive the finest service possible.

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