Beautiful Englishwoman Mary Ann Bevan was forced to work in sideshows and circuses in the early 20th century after being diagnosed with acromegaly.
Often referred to as the “Ugliest Woman in the World,” Mary Ann Bevan frequently worked at carnivals and other similar events in order to support her family and make ends meet.
It wasn’t always thought of Mary Ann Bevan as being “ugly.”
She was treated and appeared like any other young woman when she was born in the late 19th century in a London suburb.
Everything changed when she was diagnosed with an uncommon disfiguring illness after she had reached maturity and had several children.
Bevan’s face, hands, and feet were irreversibly malformed in a few of years, giving her no alternative but to depend on her appearance for financial support.
One of the most tragic characters from the once-thriving sideshow industry, Mary Ann Bevan, relates how she came to be known as the Ugliest Woman in the World.
Mary Ann Bevan’s Formative Years
On December 20, 1874, Mary Ann Webster was born into a large family on the outskirts of London.
She was raised identically to her siblings, completed her nursing education in 1894, and wed Kentish farmer Thomas Bevan in 1903.
The Bevans had two healthy sons and two healthy daughters, which was a great start to their married life.
With just a meagre salary, Mary had to raise their four small children after Thomas passed away suddenly in 1914.
Following her spouse’s passing, she started displaying signs of acromegaly, a disorder where the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone.
Acromegaly is rare, however it is currently treatable if detected early enough.
Bevan’s appearance started to drastically change, but due to early 20th-century medical limitations, nothing could be done about it.
Mary Ann Bevan Addresses Acemagogia Head-On
Acromegaly can lead to a number of significant concerns, including heart disease, kidney issues, and sleep apnea.
Bevan’s illness caused her nose to dramatically grow, her forehead and lower jaw to protrude, and her typically small hands and feet to balloon out of proportion.
Her looks altered and she struggled to get a job, so she had to take on a range of odd jobs to maintain her family.
Her appearance was permanently changed by the rare condition.
Bevan, a former employee of the fairgrounds, claimed that throughout her years of employment, a farmer told her that “all [she] was fit for [was] the ugly woman competition.”
Bevan followed the farmer’s advise and soon after entered and triumphed over 250 other competitors in the “Homeliest Woman” competition.
Her achievement caught the attention of sideshow owners, and she made the decision to take advantage of the situation for her children’s benefit, as her doctor had warned her that things would only get worse.
She soon secured a reliable job as a performer at fairs all across the British Isles.
Bevan responded to an ad for the “ugliest woman” in a London newspaper in 1920. Nothing hideous, mutilated, or deformed. Long-term commitment and good compensation are assured for the chosen candidate. Send a current photo.
A British representative for Barnum and Bailey’s circus had placed the advertisement after observing that she possessed “what may sound like a paradox, the face of an ugly woman that was not unpleasant.”
The Success of Mary Ann Bevan’s Sideshow
Bevan made roughly $12 per postcard selling these kinds of cards at fairs.
After emailing the agency a picture he had taken especially for the occasion, Bevan received an invitation to join the sideshow at Coney Island’s Dreamland amusement park, which at the time was one of the most popular venues for sideshow artists.
Senator William H. Reynolds and sideshow operator Samuel W. Gumpertz, who later worked with Harry Houdini, came up with the concept for the performance.
She was a main attraction in numerous sideshows and carnivals, with characters like Jean Carroll the Tattooed Lady, Zip the “Pinhead,” and Lionel the Lion-Faced Man.
She was a free target for admiration at Dreamland, with her 154-pound frame, 5-foot-7 height, size 11 feet, and size 25 hands.
Bevan accepted the cruel punishment with grace.”Mechanically grinning, she put up picture postcards of herself for sale,” making enough money to support her and her kids.
As time went on, Mary Ann Bevan’s appeal only increased, and by the 1930s, she was a prominent act in the renowned Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus.
She earned £20,000 in just two years of performing in New York, or almost $1.6 million in 2022. She was able to fulfill her goal of supporting her kids as a result.
Mary Ann Bevan’s Last Hours
Bevan was a mainstay at the Dreamland sideshow at Coney Island until her death in 1933.
Bevan found time for love and established friends both inside and outside of the sideshow industry. She was performing at Madison Square Garden in 1929 when she fell in love with Andrew, the giraffe keeper.
She even consented to get pampered, getting her face painted, her hair straightened, and a manicure and massage at a salon in New York City.
“The rouge and powder and the rest were as out of place on Mary Ann’s countenance as lace curtains on the portholes of a dreadnought,” some people maliciously insisted.But when Mary Ann saw her mirror, she just responded, “I guess I’ll be getting back to work.”
Bevan worked on Coney Island for the remainder of her life until her passing on December 26, 1933.
Her age was 59 years. She was buried in the southeast of the city’s Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery after having her body flown back to England for the funeral.
The public mostly ignored Mary Ann Bevan until the early 2000s, when her image was used in jest on a Hallmark card.
The card was withdrawn after complaints were made that it would further humiliate her.
Please TELL your family and friends about this courageous woman!