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A Woman Who Became a Laughing Stock to Save Her Kids From Hunger

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You know the old saying, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Well, that couldn’t be a more accurate description of what one woman had to do when forced by tragic circumstance. Mary Ann Bevan agreed to bear the title of “the world’s ugliest woman” in order to feed her kids…

Mary Ann Webster was born in London in 1874. She was a pretty little girl, healthy and cheerful. After finishing school, she started working as a nurse, and at 29, she got married. They had 2 daughters and 2 sons together, and it looked like this young couple was on the road to a long happy life together…

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TIMESTAMPS:
Early symptoms 0:50
Where did her beauty go? 1:13
Acromegaly. What is it? 1:49
How her disease became a source of income 3:08
Freak shows 5:06
The “mysterious” factor 5:28
“Expectation vs. Reality” cards 7:18

Music by Epidemic Sound https://www.epidemicsound.com/

SUMMARY:
– Mary Ann’s health issues didn’t seem serious at first – her wedding ring started feeling a bit too tight, she went up in shoe sizes. But swollen fingers and feet were pretty normal after having kids.
– The doctors initially had no clue what was going on with her, but as time went by, new symptoms started appearing. Her hands and feet were becoming abnormally large, her face was changing drastically, her skin was thicker and rougher, and her voice got deeper and hoarser.
– What this poor woman had was a very rare condition called acromegaly. As few as three people for every million are diagnosed each year.
– Nowadays, acromegaly is treated successfully with surgery, radiation therapy on the pituitary gland, medication, or a combination of these methods.
– Unfortunately for Mary Ann Bevan, there was no cure or successful treatments for the disease back in the early 20th century, which means she was doomed to live with it and somehow put up with its symptoms.
– Her disease might’ve been incurable, but it became a source of income for the widow and her children.
– In 1920, she got an offer from American showman Samuel Gumpertz to work in Coney Island’s Dreamland sideshow. In other words, she’d become part of a “freak” show where she’d join other people with different illnesses and abnormalities to entertain the masses.
– Around the middle of the 19th century, freak shows started gaining wild popularity in the US. It even became a sort of outing for the whole family, kids and all!
– The popularity spike in this unusual form of entertainment was also in part because choices were limited as far as how people could spend their free time.
– Apart from her work in the sideshows, there were multiple cards that read “The homeliest woman in the world” with Mary Ann’s picture on them. She took this title in stride and would bear it for the rest of her life.
– Mary Ann was also a patient of the famous neurosurgeon Dr. Harvey Cushing. He actually made an attempt to bring it home to people that it was cruel to make fun of her appearance.
– In the early 2000s, a prominent greeting card company started selling “Expectation vs. Reality” cards about blind dates.
– Dutch endocrinologist Dr. Wouter de Herder saw them on sale while he was on vacation in the UK, he was utterly shocked. The card company stopped selling the card immediately and expressed their regret about the whole thing.

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