Mary Ann Bevan, a beautiful woman, turned into what many people considered the ‘ugliest woman in the world.’
Mary was born in 1874. With her family comprising eight children, the older children were sent off to work in order to keep everyone fed. Once she finished her medical studies, she became a nurse in 1894.
In 1903, she got married to Thomas Bevan with whom she established a family of four children. The family were living in prosperous times within London. Three years later, in 1906, Mary was hit with a rare disease that medics at the time knew little about acromegaly.
This rare disease is a hormonal sickness that is provoked by the somatotroph hormone. In simpler terms, the hormone that helps our bodies grown and develop. The disease usually shows up after the patient hits puberty and it makes the bones of the body enlarge, usually two to three times bigger than usual.
Acromegaly affects 6 in 100,000 people, so it isn’t as rare as people often say, but for Mary, the disease was quite severe as it affected her whole body.
Besides the growth of bones, this disease can affect the whole body, which means even the organs such as the kidney, liver, heart, and everything below the belt. Today, this disease can be easily treated if caught in time, but at the start of the 20th century, medicine wasn’t advanced enough to even know what provoked the disease.
In the next years, Mary Ann suffered drastic physical changes as the disease affected her whole body. In a matter of five years, she was unrecognizable. The disease was to become the least of Mary’s problems. Thomas, her husband, although wondering what was happening with his beautiful wife, he always stood by her side no matter the way she looked. But in 1914 Thomas died from a stroke, not only leaving Mary Ann when she needed him the most but also leaving four children behind.
Her disease, or most likely the way she looked, caused her to lose her job, leaving her jobless whilst trying to raise four children by herself. Because of her physical aspect, it was very difficult to find a job, so she was taking all the worst jobs out there in order to keep her children fed.
Things didn’t turn for the better as debts were piling up and she was running out of solutions. That is why she was forced by her predicament to join the contest for the ugliest woman in the world where she actually won first place. This although not being great, helped her raise enough money to get out of debt and feed her children for some time.
The media, at the time took advantage of her situation and paid her small amounts in order to take photos and write horror stories about her. If there was a contest for the best mother in the world, it would probably go to Mary as she was doing all of this for her children. Because of the media attention she attracted, she was invited to work at the Dreamland Circus in Coney Island in 1920.
This circus was well known for its ‘freaks’ so at least she fitted in with the rest of the people. However, this circus was cruel as people would laugh at her, they would call her ugly names, and worst of all, she had to wear clothes that would put her problems in the spotlight.
Mary had to walk a long way to get to these shows and in the way, she would be called by the local’s things like freak or monster and was sometimes even beaten for her appearance. All of this was to see her children grow. For the rest of her life, Mary Ann took part in these shows until the 26th of December 1933, when she died from natural causes. Mary is buried in the Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery.
Born and raised in London in the fifties. I share a special love for London, both new and old. I began writing at 40, with most of my books and stories set London.
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