In 2022, societal progress is evident, but reflecting on the 19th century reveals the disturbing popularity of “freak shows,” where individuals with unique features were exhibited for entertainment. Mary Ann Bevan, born in 1874, faced the cruel fate of acromegaly, a disorder causing abnormal growth. In the 1920s, struggling financially after her husband’s death, she responded to an ad seeking the “Ugliest Woman,” placed by Claude Bartram, an agent for Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Choosing necessity over vanity, Mary Ann embarked on a career in the circus, captivating audiences worldwide. Despite objections from neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing, the exploitation continued, with Mary Ann enduring mockery and being forced to wear male attire. However, her sacrifice wasn’t in vain; she earned a substantial fortune, ensuring her four children received a quality education in England.
Mary Ann’s resilience exemplifies true beauty — the willingness to sacrifice for loved ones. In 1933, she passed away at 59, and her children fulfilled her wish to be buried in her birth country. Mary Ann’s story resonates as a testament to a mother’s selflessness, navigating a time without social benefits, earning respect for her determination and love for her family.