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The ex-beauty who became the ugliest woman in the world: Mary Ann Bevan endured everything for her children
A loving mother is willing to sacrifice her life for her children. And Mary Ann Webster (from her married name, Mary Ann Bevan) is one of them: she was not afraid to make a fool of herself and to show herself in public, with her funny appearance. The poor woman had only one goal: to feed her children, whatever it took. Mary had to endure the insults, humiliation and eccentricity of the spectators who wanted to see “the ugliest woman in the world”.
At first, Marie’s life was nothing special. She was born in London into a large and poor family. She had to start earning her bread at an early age and even worked as a nurse in a hospital. At the time, she was a rather attractive girl who dreamed of having a big family. And her dreams came true: at the age of 29, she married Thomas Bevan and gave birth to four children.
But soon Mary began to have health problems: migraines, muscle aches and joint pain. The doctors didn’t understand what was going on with her body. However, her family was demanding attention and care, so she didn’t have time to take care of her own health.
A sudden illness
The symptoms of her illness became more and more obvious: her skull became longer, her facial features became prominent, and her soft hands and feminine shape began to disappear. She went from being a pretty young woman, to a rather ugly Mrs. Bevan who no longer looked like her.
Mary had acromegaly, a neuroendocrine disease associated with excessive production of growth hormone. This leads to an overdevelopment of body size, increased bone, internal organs and soft tissue, accompanied by headaches and muscle pain. Acromegaly is usually caused by a benign tumor of the pituitary gland. In most cases, the disease is hereditary.
Today, doctors know how to manage this disease using various treatment methods. But in the early 20th century, Mary Ann had no chance of being cured. Every day, the woman watched her beauty disappear.
An unpleasant nickname and her first income.
Mr. Bevan always supported his wife through this ordeal and never thought of leaving her. But fate had its own plans for the couple. After 11 years of marriage, Mrs. Bevan was widowed with 4 children and almost no means of support.
After her husband’s death, she would have taken any job to feed her children. However, she was unable to find steady work because of her appearance. People on the street reacted strangely to her: some insulted her, others laughed at her or looked at her with contempt. Every public appearance was a challenge for her.
The family’s financial situation was made worse when Mary found out that there was going to be a contest in England for the title of “ugliest woman”. So she decided to do something desperate: enter the contest to compete for the grand prize, which came with a rather large sum of money. In the end, she managed to win the contest, but the press was filled with derogatory articles that were not easy to read.
Mary had managed to do the impossible at that time: turn her pain into a stable income, even though emotionally her situation was very difficult. Note that this funny contest still takes place today in England, but it is more about grimaces.
Circus and show
In 1920, she was invited to work in the United States in a circus and amusement park, on Coney Island, called “Dreamland. She participated in many shows where she exposed her strange appearance. In addition, she had to use bright costumes to further emphasize her lack of beauty and masculinity.
This show had hired other people, like her, endowed with a non-standard appearance, even, frightening: a bearded woman, dwarfs, giants, Siamese twins… They were all exhibited to entertain the public.
Indeed, at that time, the public loved this kind of cruel amusement, and Mrs. Bevan was one of the most popular artists of the troupe. It is hard to imagine how difficult it must have been for her to have her dignity trampled on and to forget that she had once been a beautiful woman, only to be transformed into a being subject to mockery and humiliation. But she endured all this suffering for the sake of her children.
Here is a family photo in which you can see Mary with her 4 children:
the eldest son has a sailor’s uniform, the youngest has a suit and her daughters have a dress.
In those days, photo shoots were very expensive, and some families only took a few over their lifetime. This fact may indicate that Mary was primarily a loving and affectionate mother. However, she was forced to become a “freak” circus actress.
For the rest of her life, Mary Bevan worked in an American circus. During her lifetime, she had the opportunity to return to Europe only once: in 1925, she went to Paris, where she was invited to perform at the Exposition Universelle.
Unfortunately, patients with acromegaly rarely reach old age. Mary died in 1933, at the age of 59. She had asked her children to bury her in her native England. The complicated fate of this woman who never gave up proves, once again, that a mother would do anything for her children, including enduring the title of “Ugliest Woman in the World.”
Of course, one can say that she had no other choice, and that exposing herself like this was her only chance. But she did not hesitate to take risks and to make her illness a source of income to support her family. Who knows what Marie’s fate would have been without her illness and her courage?”