A great mother who went down in history as “the ugliest woman in the world”

Recently, the Internet has been filled with images of a woman with masculine features, a huge jaw, drooping eyes and a wide forehead. The world recognized her as “the ugliest woman in history.” But, as you read her story, it will leave you puzzled over the question of whether she was really the ugliest or the bravest. Here is Mary Ann Bevan’s tale that will shake your senses and leave you wondering how humanity got to rock bottom.

Who was Mary Ann Bevan? Early life, career and family

A great mother who went down in history as "the ugliest woman in the world"
London, 19th century.

Mary Ann Bevan was born in London on December 20, 1874. She was one of eight children raised by a working-class family that struggled to make ends meet. So Mary had to face a traumatic childhood and go through a difficult phase to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse.

A great mother who went down in history as "the ugliest woman in the world"
Mary and her children

When she came of age and in her late twenties her life fizzled out, and she took a detour towards a glamorous romance when she met Thomas Bevan. In 1902, she married the love of her life at the age of 29 and spent her married days cheerfully as a pretty nurse, loving wife and caring mother with her husband, Thomas Bevan, and their four children.

What made Mary lose her physical features?

A great mother who went down in history as "the ugliest woman in the world"
Mary Ann Bevan. Image source: Wikimedia

After her wedding, in her thirties, although Mary lived an ordinary life, she was really happy. All family members supported each other and faced all odds together. During this period, she also developed a strange disease called “acromegaly”. However, this did not prevent her husband from showering his love on her. However, her married life was short-lived as Thomas died of a stroke in 1914, just 11 years after the couple had met each other. Her family became her only source of comfort when she quit her job as a nurse after noticing the obvious signs and symptoms of her illness.

Mary Ann developed acromegaly at the age of 32, a rare hormonal disorder in which the pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone, eventually causing unrecognizable physical deformities. Research suggests that a noncancerous pituitary tumor can be a cause of acromegaly, and this disorder mostly affects middle-aged adults. The symptoms are physical deformities and abnormal enlargement of the bones of the head, hands, legs, etc. And in some cases, it causes organs to swell, including the heart.

Acromegaly was an unknown disease during those days, and doctors had little knowledge of how to treat it. We now know a lot about this disease. For example, we know that it affects up to six people out of every 100,000. If we catch the condition in time, it can be treated with prolonged medication and even cured. People diagnosed with acromegaly today have the same life expectancy as the general population when they receive treatment early.

Unfortunately, Mary became a victim of this disorder, as it had a significant financial and psychological impact on her life. She was a charming, independent woman with sharp features and a decent job before she developed acromegaly, which made her appear larger, more muscular, and manly. Although she had no income to support herself and her four children after the death of her husband, no one wanted to use the services of a nurse, mainly because her ugly and manly appearance drew unkind comments from passers-by.

How did Mary turn obstacles into opportunities?

A great mother who went down in history as "the ugliest woman in the world"
Mary Ann. Image credit: American Philosophical Society

By her late thirties, Mary had reached a point where she became the sole source of income for her family after her husband’s death. Desperate, Mary saw an advertisement in a local newspaper one day that said: “Wanted: The most hideous woman. Disfigured or mutilated. Good pay and a long engagement guaranteed.” Faced with possible destitution, she applied for the position to support her children.

Claude Bartram, the European agent who handles “Barnum and Bailey,” an American circus, enlists Mary to be the new season’s geek on the lucrative side-show circuit where he can get her attention. Despite her reluctance to put herself on the offer and live separately from her children, she decided to take this opportunity on the payment of £10 a week which would greatly help her children’s education.

A great mother who went down in history as "the ugliest woman in the world"
Dreamland Park at Coney Island, 1905. Image credit: Wikimedia

First of all, Marie toured Hampshire and managed to grab enough attention from the public that she was later offered an opportunity to collaborate with the Dreamland Circus in Coney Island. When New York newspapers featured her cover pages with the headline “The Ugliest Woman on Earth,” she went on to become the star of the show and achieved her goal of making a fortune. For years, Mary was mocked, humiliated, and humiliated by her fellow humans at every possible offer of £20,000 for her. She used this money to send her children to a boarding school, and kept in touch with them regularly through letters and visits.

How did Mary spend her last days?

A great mother who went down in history as "the ugliest woman in the world"
Dreamland Park, Coney Island. Image credit: Wikimedia

After her success in several traveling shows, paying audiences flocked to see Mary in the show’s outlandish costumes. In the early 20th century, these dehumanizing shows where spinners would make a fortune using people’s mutilations were legal and considered attractions. It is no longer acceptable to use mutilated people as entertainment nowadays, but from the 1940s to the 1940s freak shows gained immense popularity.

Mary Ann was forced to wear clothes that made her look unattractive and powerful. She returned to Europe in 1925 to participate in the Paris Exposition but spent the rest of her life at the Coney Dreamland Exposition. With enough money and fortune stashed away, she quickly retired and resorted to alcohol and drug abuse. She wasted her money gratuitously as a coping mechanism, as she seemed to miss all the attention she was getting while working on shows. Mary was heartbroken and left emotionally alone. She died of natural causes in 1933 at the age of 59. Her children fulfilled her dying wish to be buried in her native land. She is now resting in peace at Ladywell and Brockley Cemetery, south London.

Protests against Hallmark for using Mary’s image

A great mother who went down in history as "the ugliest woman in the world"
Protest against using Mary’s picture.

In the early 2000s, Hallmark distributed a birthday card using pictures of Mary to satirize her. The card referred to the “Blind Date” dating show. After a Dutch doctor filed a complaint against the use of mutilated women, local protests erupted, and Hallmark considered temporarily halting distribution of these cards. When Hallmark discovered Mary Ann was suffering from a physical disorder, they agreed to stop distribution altogether but stated that existing stock would not be pulled. A large number of people felt it shameful to take advantage of the misery and misery of other people’s illnesses.

This incident proves that although Mary Ann had to endure the cruelty of the world for most of her life, many people still considered her to be a strong and independent mother who was determined to support her family and showed her true beauty through self-sacrifice.


Tricare west is a global news publication that tells the stories you want to know.

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