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eauty defines almost everything today, even if the only beauty that matters is that which is presented by our souls. Despite this, physical beauty can define a person’s life. Not only that, but a drastic shift in your physical appearance can immensely affect someone psychologically and turn your life around in a blink of an eye.

This can be best presented by the life of Mary Ann Bevan who from a beautiful woman turned into what the world in the 20th century considered the “ugliest woman in the world,” an unofficial title that was given to her.

Mary Ann Bevan was born in 1874 in London in a middle-class family. With her family being made up of eight children (seven other brothers) 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 was very happy, especially as they were living in prosperous times within London. Three years later, in 1906 Mary Ann was hit with a rare disease that medics at the time didn’t know much 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 grow 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. Usually, the disease only affects the hands or feet of a person. To help you understand, our growth hormones are told at a certain point by the brain when to shut down, therefore stop the growing process. This disease interferes and the growth hormones either stop much later or in some rare cases never stop.

Mary Ann Beaven in 1911 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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 and looked nothing like in her photo album.

Combating a judgemental society

The disease was to become the least of Mary Ann’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.

Mary Ann Beaven and her four children (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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. Due to 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.

Mary Ann Beaven in her 40s (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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 Ann as she was doing all of this for her children. Due to the media attention, she attracted, she was invited to work at the Dreamland Circus in Coney Island in 1920.

Mary Ann Beaven at one of the circus shows from Dreamland (Source: BrightSide)

This particular 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 Ann had to walk a long way to get to these shows and in the way, she would be called in different manners by the locals such as 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.

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