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Mary Ann Bevan: The Most Beautiful Woman

Because Mary Ann Bevan died in 1933, very few people alive today would be old enough to remember her, but honestly having researched her history, I desired that I had the opportunity to meet her. Given the moniker, the “world’s ugliest woman” it’s evident that those who gave her that nickname were judging her alone by her appearance, clearly not by her strength of character. Her beauty may not have been noticeable to the naked eye but to those who gave her an opportunity and saw her from within, she was strikingly beautiful.

Mary Ann Was Nurse

Pic: Wikipedia

Born in December 1884, Mary Ann was one of eight kids born to an impoverished family in Plaistow, East London. She ultimately was trained to be a nurse and at the age of 29, she wedded Thomas Bevan and she went on to become the mum of four kids. At the time of her marriage, few could argue her outer beauty matched her inner beauty. Eleven years into her wedding, her husband passed away leaving her to care for her four young kids.

Here’s the dilemma. Mary Ann developed a condition known as acromegaly, a condition where the body produced too much growth hormone. Anyone who was into professional wrestling during the ’70s and 80s or ever saw Fezzik in the movie Princess Bride would understand the name “Andre the Giant”. He, too, had acromegaly.

The condition can lead to enlargement of the hands and feet and it could result in the enlargement of facial features. In Mary Ann’s case, she became more masculine and her disproportionate features would have been felt unattractive. Acromegaly is painful to those who are afflicted as the bones and the tissue grow at a quick rate. Given her ugly appearance, obtaining a gainful job was tough and she was left with no means to support her kids.

World’s ugliest woman

Determined to do anything she could to support those kids, she swallowed what little pride she had left and she took a job in a freak show under the title “world’s ugliest woman”. Mary didn’t like putting herself on exhibition. She was nervous and she didn’t want to be distinguished from her kids. Given her family was at stake, she accepted the job and placed her kids at boarding schools. Mary Ann began her tour of the U.K. working for popular circus showman P. T. Barnum. She was so successful though that Barnum soon put her on a ship for America. Almost instantly Mary Ann was on the cover of every publication in New York, being heralded as the “ugliest woman on Earth”. Mary Ann became the star of Barnum’s “freak show”, overshadowing extremely tall people, midgets, conjoined twins, and bearded ladies.

Not everyone was fascinated by Mary Ann Bevan, though. In 1927, leading neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing wrote to Time magazine, complaining that Time Magazine and other publications should not be giggling at the physical disorders that were afflicting Mary Ann Bevan or anyone else.


I agree with Harvey Cushing’s assessment. It is said that this nation ever had a P. T. Barnum freak show. It is even sadder that, because of her appearance, Mary Ann Bevan couldn’t find a gainful job that didn’t manipulate her illness. Nonetheless, as horrible as those shows were at least she was able to support her family.

The years of touring, along with her affliction, took their toll on Mary Ann. She passed away in 1933 at the age of 49, a broken woman. She had lost her entire wealth to bad investments and her developing a drinking problem. Mary Ann Bevan was laid to rest at the Ladywell and Brockley Cemetery in South London.

For the people of Great Britain, I would be proud to call her one of my own. I’m proud we share the same first name. Very few would have the determination and strength of character to endure what she did.

Today, acromegaly is a condition that can be treated and controlled.

If you mean the English woman who developed acromegaly at the outset of the 20th century, I do not know her. She passed away about a decade before I was born. I know she capitalized on her appearance to support her kids. Hallmark used her image on a greeting card but instantly stopped production and distribution after acknowledging it was terrible to make light of someone’s illness.

I know her quite well. She and I have been playing airsoft together for the past five years.

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Mary Ann Bevan…

Mary Ann Bevan was an English woman, who after developing acromegaly, toured the sideshow circuit as “the ugliest woman in the world”.


Written By…

Paul Asling – Author
About Paul Born and raised in Fulham, London, I have a special affection for old London. I started writing at 40, with most of my literature-based upon London and its extraordinary gritty character. With London’s 2,000 years of history bursting at the seams, there’s always something fresh to write about. I am likewise excited by the psychology of human attitude and the reasons people do the things they do. Follow Me: Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook For those who seek a story of crime, love, or history. MY BOOKS WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH, CRY, AND HAVE YOU GRIPPED THROUGHOUT.
Mary Ann Bevan, a beautiful woman, turned into what many people assumed the ‘ugliest woman in the world.’

Mary was born in 1874. With her family comprising eight kids, the older children were sent off to work to keep everyone fed. Once she completed her medical studies, she became a nurse in 1894.

In 1903, she got wedded to Thomas Bevan with whom she established a

Since the only Mary Ann Bevan, I could find by googling died in 1933, close to 20 years before I was born, I never met her.

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Credit: Quora

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