Mary Ann Bevan: The Ugliest Woman in History

May 31, 2022 2 comments

Mary Ann Bevan may have made a name as the ugliest woman in the world. But in her endeavours she also became an epitome of opportunism and optimism.

Born in Plaistow, London, on 20 December, 1874, Mary was one of eight children born to working-class parents. She lived a commonplace life for many years, and married Thomas Bevan, a market gardener in 1903. But in May 1914 Thomas died suddenly, leaving Mary with four young mouths to feed. She was a normal looking woman of five feet seven, but after her husband’s death, Mary began noticing symptoms of acromegaly. Her body was now producing growth hormones in excess, causing incessant migraine and great physical discomfort. On the exterior though, all that was visible were her consistently deteriorating appearance.

But Mary remained unbogged against common carping, looking for ways to sustain her broken family. In the 1920s she met a Mr A. Chapman of Blackpool and ended up entering a contest that identified the ugliest woman of the world. In a bittersweet moment, she won. Soon after she was hired at the Coney Island's Dreamland sideshow. She roamed much of Scotland, England, the USA and Northern Ireland and carried the title of the ugliest woman in the world wherever she went. Meanwhile, she became a patient of the neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing during these years, who religiously defended her for her suffering and unfortunate fate.

Mary worked as one of the main attractions at the sideshow circus till her death in 1933. She was 59 years old by then. Even years later her name induced laughter and derision around the world. But for her effort at survival as well as her medical condition she also garnered much sympathy. Wouter de Herder, an endocrinologist from the Netherlands, saw a humorous birthday card on the stands during his 2006 trip to the UK. He immediately recognised that the front cover had an image of Mary Ann Bevan for her laughable looks. “She had been an attractive young London nurse but then suffered from a painful disease called acromegaly,” he said, condemning the foul mocking. He might have been one of the few across the world to acknowledge struggle over entertainment, but it mattered, for that day, the world got one step closer to being compassionate towards the afflicted.

# National Library of Medicine


  1. I think ole Mary was a male. It appears that Mary has an adam's apple. I don't think women have those.

    1. If you are looking at lower picture, think that is loose, saggy skin. She had two children... unless you are implying additional situations.


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