The Inspiring Story of Mary Ann Bevan, a Mother’s Sacrifice

Mary Ann Bevan, a remarkable woman who lived in the 19th century, faced extraordinary challenges. Born on December 20, 1874, in Plaistow, East London, she grew up to become a respected nurse and was considered very attractive. She had a bright future ahead of her with endless possibilities.

In 1902, Mary met the love of her life, Thomas Bevan, and they were blessed with four children. Their life together was filled with happiness, but tragedy struck when Thomas unexpectedly passed away after just 14 years of marriage. Mary found herself heartbroken and facing the daunting task of raising their children alone.

Difficult times lay ahead for Mary. At the age of 32, she started experiencing strange symptoms. Her face gradually changed, leaving her confused and frightened. She was unsure of what was happening to her, both physically and mentally. Sadly, her condition resulted in the deformation of her face and the growth of her bones. Unable to work, she struggled to provide for her children.

During that time, acromegaly, a hormonal disorder that causes the bones to grow abnormally, had yet to be fully understood. Mary suffered in silence, as no one could diagnose her or offer any effective treatment. It was a bleak time for her and others facing similar challenges.

One day, in her darkest hour, Mary came across an advertisement that read: “Wanted: Ugliest woman. Nothing repulsive, maimed, or disfigured. Good pay guaranteed, and long engagement for successful applicant. Send recent photograph.” Although she found the prospect distasteful, Mary saw no other way to provide for her children. As a mother, she would do anything to put food on the table.

Mary responded to the ad and was soon contacted by Claude Bartram, the agent for a traveling circus. He realized that Mary’s appearance was not repulsive but rather unique. She had a strong, masculine jawline, prominent cheekbones, and a commanding presence. Bartram understood Mary’s hesitations but assured her of a weekly salary, expenses covered, and even the sale of picture postcards featuring her image. This would secure a good education for her children.

Almost overnight, Mary Ann Bevan became known as ‘the ugliest woman on Earth.’ Her photos were published in numerous magazines, and she became an attraction at the Dreamland Circus in Coney Island, New York. However, fate had something more in store for her.

One day, a renowned neurosurgeon named Harvey Cushing noticed Mary Ann at the circus. Intrigued by the depth and complexity of her condition, he wanted to explore her case further. In a letter to Time magazine, he wrote, “This unfortunate woman…has a story which is far from mirth-provoking. She, previously a vigorous and good-looking young woman, has become the victim of a disease known as acromegaly.”

Despite the challenges she faced, Mary Ann persevered. Her work in the circus allowed her to accumulate a small fortune, enabling her to send her children back to England to attend boarding schools. Every hardship she endured was for the sake of her beloved children.

Mary Ann Bevan passed away at the age of 59 due to natural causes. Her final wish was to rest in her homeland of England, and her children honored that request. Today, she rests at the peaceful Ladywell and Brockley Cemetery in South London.

Mary Ann’s extraordinary life speaks volumes about a mother’s boundless love for her children. Her determination, selflessness, and perseverance continue to inspire us. Let us remember her story and the sacrifices she made. Share her story with your family and friends, and may her legacy live on.

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