'Ugliest woman in the world' endured humiliation to provide for her children

Even in death, Mary Ann Bevan was an object of ridicule.

Mary Ann Bevan won an 'ugliest woman in the world' competition [Fact Issues]

Three years after their wedding, attractive Mary Ann Bevan's body suddenly began to change dramatically.

Due to her appearance, she lost her job as a nurse, and when her husband died a few years later, she was left with four children and no means of subsistence. Then she decided to undertake the greatest humiliation of her life - she entered the competition for the ugliest woman in the world and started performing in the circus. Even in death, she was an object of ridicule.

Mary Ann Webster was born in 1874 in London, one of eight children of a lawyer couple. In her 20s, she started working as a nurse. She was an attractive young woman and there was no indication she was developing a serious disease. Meanwhile, she met Thomas Bevan, a flower seller. They married when Mary was 29 years old.

The woman suffered from acromegaly, which manifested itself three years after the wedding. From then on, the so-called Giants' disease began to cause sudden changes in the 32-year-old's body. Her facial features and the shape of her nose changed, her jaw became overgrown, and she developed swelling under her eyes , which remained with her for the rest of her life.


Due to the excessive secretion of growth hormone typical of acromegaly, Mary no longer resembled her former self, and her appearance aroused curiosity and became the butt of jokes. Soon the nurse lost her job.

After 11 years of marriage, Thomas Bevan died, suddenly leaving his sick wife and four children behind. After his death, Mary was left without a job and without any means of support. Knowing that she had to support her family on her own, she decided to take the most difficult step in her life.

The woman decided to take part in the competition for the "ugliest woman in the world." Mary Ann Bevan won the infamous title, as well as a cash prize of £50 , which contributed to her family budget. Her appearance aroused so much interest that she was offered a job in the then very popular British circus.

The desperate woman, for the sake of her children, decided to undergo this humiliation and soon began to perform, among others, alongside a woman with a beard and Siamese twins.


The unhealthy interest in her appearance exceeded the woman's expectations. More proposals appeared and the British also appeared in the American "freak show." The press all over the world wrote about her, and participation in "wonder shows" became a chance for Mary to provide her children with a decent life.

Mary Ann Bevan's sad life was spent mainly on the road - from show to show, where she made money and allowed herself to be made a mockery of her disability. She died at the age of 59, far from home. The former nurse's children fulfilled her wishes and brought their mother's body to England, where she wanted to be buried. However, even death did not end her humiliation.

Nearly a hundred years later, Mary's appearance once again became an object of ridicule. The woman's photo was used by the British tycoon, Hallmark Cards, on a birthday card produced by the company.


The image of Mary Ann Bevan was intended as a humorous warning against blind dating. One of the Dutch doctors made a quick intervention, after which Hallmark Cards agreed to stop producing the offensive cards. However, this did not change the fact that some of them were already on sale and spread around the world, giving a second life to the humiliation that Mary Ann Bevan endured.


This article was originally published on Onet Woman.


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