The intriguing and tragic story of Mary Ann Bevan

In many ways, I’m satisfied with the development our society has made in 2022.While it is true that certain things were better in the past, if we simply go back a few centuries, we can see that several parts of everyday life belonged there as well.

“Freak shows” were one of the most popular attractions in the nineteenth century, and they were accepted as a normal part of American culture.They were essentially mobile circuses with “odd” performers such as bearded ladies and Siamese twins.

Mary Ann Bevan, one of these “odd” women, acquired the moniker of “Ugliest Woman in the World,” and her intriguing life story and terrible conclusion underline why she should never be forgotten.

Individuals of diverse races or physical abilities have always piqued people’s interest, but displaying them in public and profiting from them is unethical, regardless of the time period.

In the nineteenth century, audiences flocked to view persons with abnormalities; nowadays, this is just unimaginable. From the 1840s until the 1940s, “freak shows” were very popular, and profit-driven exploitation was not considered unethical.

As a result, it’s hardly unexpected that Mary Ann Bevan’s narrative begins about this time. Mary Ann Webster was born on December 20, 1874, in Plaistow, East London, UK.

During this time, almost every working-class home had a large number of children. Mary Ann Webster, one of eight children—six of whom were boys, grew up alongside her siblings.

When her brothers reached maturity, they were given employment to help support their family. Mary Ann, however, had other possibilities. The lovely brunette completed medical school and began working as a nurse in 1894. She had a promising future at this point in her life.

She was a beautiful young girl with delicate features who lived in London and received a good education. This economically prosperous city has grown into a global center.

When Mary Ann married Thomas Bevan in 1902, she felt love. The couple had four children and were quite happy together. Unfortunately, the happy days were not to last long. After 14 years together, Thomas died of a stroke. Mary Ann was angry, and she was left alone with her four children.

Unfortunately, she was dealing with other challenges. She began experiencing bodily issues shortly after marrying Thomas, and these worsened over time.

Mary Ann first had acromegaly symptoms when she was around 32 years old. When the first symptoms showed, she must have been shocked, and unfortunately, finding care for the unusual ailment was not easy.

Acromegaly was an unknown ailment at the time, and doctors had no idea how to treat it. Acromegaly is a disorder in which the body overproduces growth hormone, resulting in increased body tissue and bones. It’s a dreadful ailment that typically causes the individual’s hands and feet to swell three times their usual size.

In contrast to how the sickness frequently develops after puberty, Mary Ann Bevan’s condition appeared later in life and had an influence on her face. Her features widened and became more masculine as she battled the sickness.

We now know a lot more about the condition. For example, we know that it might harm six out of every 100,000 people. If the problem is identified in time, it can be addressed. For example, if acromegaly patients receive proper care from the outset, their life expectancy will be equal to that of the average population.

Unfortunately, Mary Ann Bevan would not benefit from such medical advances. Rather, the disease had a substantial negative psychological and financial impact on her.

When she married Thomas, the situation wasn’t that awful. Mary Ann faced some criticism, but she found comfort in her husband and the support of her family.

But once Thomas died, circumstances worsened, and Mary Ann struggled to maintain her children. The sickness had badly damaged her physical appearance and had spread throughout her body. In a span of years, she transformed from a gorgeous young mother to a depressed, unrecognisable widow.

Nobody wanted to hire her because of her changed appearance. Many of Mary Ann’s employers were terrified when they saw her huge face, and they didn’t want a malformed lady who attracted attention working with them.

Then, one day, Mary Ann came across a newspaper advertising that would permanently change her life. The advertising stated as follows:

“Wanted: Ugliest lady. Nothing unpleasant, mutilated, or deformed. Successful applicants will be paid well and have long-term employment opportunities. Send a recent snapshot.

Claude Bartram was in charge of the advertising. He worked as an agent for Barnum & Bailey, an American circus. Mary Ann had no option but to respond to the advertisement since her bills and commitments were increasing.

It was all about feeding her beloved children; she had no desire to become famous or affluent. Motherhood was Mary Ann’s greatest focus.

Bartram contacted Mary Ann after she uploaded a photo of herself. The public eventually grew familiar with her photos.

But, whereas most people saw simply a terrifying vision of a massive lady, Bartram saw more. Mary Ann’s demeanor and features had hitherto unseen aspects.

“She wasn’t disgusting at all. She had a giant-like face, with a muscular, male jaw, broad cheekbones, nose, and forehead, yet she was unblemished, healthy, and strong. She told me she didn’t like the thought of putting herself on display; she was timid and didn’t want to be apart from her children,” Bartram later recalled.

“I told her she would earn £10 per week for a year, travelling expenses and all the money from the sale of picture postcards of herself, so she could provide for the education of her children.”

But, whereas many people only saw a terrifying image of a huge lady, Bartram saw something more. There were characteristics about Mary Ann’s looks and demeanor that remained ignored.

When Mary Ann crossed the Atlantic in 1920, she was already well-known when she arrived in New York. Mary Ann was dubbed “The Ugliest Woman on Earth,” and she appeared on the front covers of practically every newspaper in New York.

Mary Ann went on to become a big hit in the Coney Island Circus, which was owned by successful Missouri showman Samuel Gumpertz.

In competition with bearded ladies, conjoined twins, and other people with various physical restrictions, the newcomer from England surpassed her circus colleagues, and Mary Ann became the star attraction.

However, numerous people complained about the immorality of utilizing circus performers as props. Even in the nineteenth century, people were strongly opposed to exploiting the infirmities of freak show performers for commercial advantage. Harvey Cushing, a prominent neurosurgeon, stepped in and urged them to leave Mary Ann alone.

“This unhappy woman who sits in the Ringling Brothers sideshow ‘between Fat Lady and Armless Wonder’ and ‘affects white lace caps, woolen mittens, and high laced shoes’ has a far from amusing narrative.

“She, previously a vigorous and good-looking young woman, has become the victim of a disease known as acromegaly,” he said in a letter to Time.

However, regulars continued to visit the circus, and the directors made a fortune. Unfortunately, Mary Ann had a lot to contend with in New York. She was told to dress more masculinely so that she would look less attractive and feminine. She also had to put up with jokes and comments, which surely lowered her self-esteem.

However, there was one benefit that convinced her that it was worthwhile. According to the Daily Star, Mary Ann earned around $590,000 while working with the circus. She had many experiences, but she also got pretty wealthy.She even offered to sell photo postcards of herself, beaming robotically.

With the money, Mary Ann was able to send her four children to an English boarding school. A mother’s worst nightmare is surely abandoning her children on another continent, but Mary Ann was compelled to do so and eventually did everything she could to provide her children a better future.

The offering of oneself Mary Ann demonstrated real beauty by exhibiting what it means to give up all for the people you love.

She returned to France in 1925 to participate in an exhibition, but she spent the remainder of her life in New York, working at the Coney Island Dreamland Show.

Mary Ann died from natural causes in 1933. Mary Ann died at the age of 59, and her children honored her final desire to be buried in her native country. She is currently buried at South London’s Ladywell and Brockley Cemetery.

I’m not sure about you, but I respect Mary Ann. Her story displays her persistent commitment to provide for her family. She had to work since there were no benefits, like there are now. She was a mother who genuinely loved her children and prioritized others before herself.

Rest in peace, Mary Ann; you deserve it.

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