Mary Ann Bevan’s life story, often overshadowed by the label “The Ugliest Woman in the World,” is a poignant tale of maternal love and resilience, rooted in a time when society viewed physical differences with insensitivity.
Born on December 20, 1874, in Plaistow, East London, Mary Ann led a respected life as a nurse and was considered attractive. Her life took a happy turn when she married Thomas Bevan in 1902, with whom she had four children. However, tragedy struck when Thomas died 14 years later, leaving Mary Ann a single mother.
Her challenges compounded around age 32 when she began exhibiting symptoms of acromegaly, a hormonal disorder caused by excessive growth hormone. This condition, undiagnosed at the time, led to changes in her appearance, with enlarged facial bones and altered features. These changes cost Mary Ann her job, plunging her into financial hardship.
In a desperate attempt to provide for her children, Mary Ann responded to an advertisement seeking the “Ugliest Woman” for a sideshow. Despite her reluctance and personal agony, she accepted the job, driven by the need to support her family.
Circus agent Claude Bartram, who later recounted her story, emphasized her healthy appearance despite her unique features. She secured the job, which paid £10 per week and additional earnings from picture postcard sales.
Mary Ann’s fame grew, and she became a well-known figure in sideshows, including the Dreamland Circus in Coney Island, New York. Her condition caught the attention of Dr. Harvey Cushing, a renowned neurosurgeon, who recognized it as acromegaly.
Despite the hardships and exploitation she faced, Mary Ann Bevan managed to earn enough to send her children to boarding schools in England. She worked at the circus for the rest of her life, passing away at age 59. Fulfilling her final wish, her children buried her in Ladywell and Brockley Cemetery in South London.
Mary Ann Bevan’s story is a testament to a mother’s love, her sacrifice, and the strength to endure societal prejudices for the sake of her children. Please share her inspiring story with friends and family on Facebook.