« How Beauty Turned into a Circus Freak for Children: The Tragic Story of Mary Ann Bevan »


The story of Mary Ann Bevan, known as « The Ugliest Woman in the World, » begins in the 19th century, a dark period in American culture when « freak shows, » traveling circuses showcasing people with specific deformities and disabilities, were at the height of their popularity.

Today, it is extremely unacceptable to treat people with disabilities disrespectfully, but back then, nobody believed it was morally wrong to label them as « freaks. »

Mary Ann Bevan was born on December 20, 1874, in Plaistow, East London, United Kingdom. She grew up to become a nurse and was respected by society. Furthermore, she was a very attractive woman who received many opportunities.

In 1902, Mary met the love of her life, a man named Thomas Bevan. The two married and had four children together, but their happiness did not last long. After 14 years, Thomas passed away, leaving Mary shattered.

Her life became difficult as she was left alone to take care of and provide for her children.

Unfortunately, around the time she turned 32, Mary began to exhibit strange symptoms. Her face gradually changed, and she did not know what was happening or what was causing this change, which affected her both mentally and financially.

Mary’s bones began to grow, and her face became deformed. As a result, she lost her job and could no longer provide for her children.

At that time, nobody could diagnose her, but this poor woman suffered from acromegaly, a hormonal disorder that develops when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone during adulthood when there is no change in body size. Instead, the increase in bone size is limited to the bones of the hands, feet, and face.

Much more is known about this disease nowadays, and there are ways to control it, which was not the case when Mary was alive.

Broken, unhappy, and poor, one day this woman saw an advertisement that read: « Wanted: Ugliest Woman. Nothing repulsive, mutilated, or disfigured. Good pay guaranteed, and long employment for successful applicant. Send a current photo. »

As horrible as she felt about this « job, » she saw no other way out of her situation. She simply had to do whatever it took to feed her children. Above all, she was a mother.

Mary responded to the advertisement, and soon she was contacted by the circus agent, a man named Claude Bartram, who later shared Mary’s story.

« She wasn’t repulsive at all. She had the face one usually finds in a giant, a strong, masculine jaw, prominent cheekbones, nose, and forehead, but she was flawless, healthy, and strong.

She told me she didn’t like the idea of exhibiting herself; she was shy and didn’t want to be separated from her children, » Bartram said according to Daily Star.

« I told her she would earn £10 per week for a year, travel expenses, and all the money from the sale of picture postcards of herself so she could provide for her children’s education. »

In no time, magazines were filled with photos of Mary Ann, and everyone recognized her as « the ugliest woman in the world. »

Her popularity brought her to Dreamland Circus in Coney Island, New York, one of the most famous circuses ever.

Mary Ann became an attraction, but then she was discovered by a doctor named Harvey Cushing, a leading neurosurgeon, who knew there was more to her huge face that he wanted to thoroughly explore.

« This unfortunate woman, sitting in the sideshow of Ringling Brothers ‘between the fat lady and the armless wonder,’ wearing ‘white lace hats, woolen gloves, and high-laced shoes,’ has a story that is anything but laughable.

She, once a sturdy and good-looking young woman, has become a victim of a disease called acromegaly, » he wrote in a letter to Time magazine.

Mary Ann spent her life at the circus, and it was reported that she earned a small fortune, allowing her to send her children back to England, where they attended boarding schools.

She endured a lot, but she did it all for her children.

Mary Ann passed away at the age of 59 from natural causes. Her final wish was to be buried in her homeland, England, and her children fulfilled that wish. She rests at the Ladywell and Brockley Cemetery in South London.

The sad but fascinating life story of this woman speaks more of a mother’s love for her children than anything else.

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