Is This the World's Tallest Woman?

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Worlds Tallest Woman

The World's Tallest Woman
The woman on the left is supposedly the tallest in the world. Viral image

Viral images show the world's tallest woman at 7 feet, 4 inches tall, and 320 pounds, in Holland. These images have been circulating since 2002 and are believed to be false depictions. Emails, such as the one below and contributed by P. White on Dec. 17, 2002, were known to have circulated tremendously at the time:

Subject: World's Tallest Woman

"Tallest woman in the world: she is from Holland, measures a little over 7'4" and weights 320 pounds. So, why does she need platform shoes? Wouldn't she intimidate you?" P. White

An Analysis of the Images

Although these images appear to show a very tall woman, in truth her size has not been independently verified. Even if the measurements given above are correct, she is not the tallest woman in the world.

The images appear to be unaltered and were culled from HeatherHaven.com, the website of a woman who calls herself Heather and claims to stand 6 feet, 5-1/2 inches tall in her bare feet (over 7 feet tall in high heels). She is not from Holland, nor, if those statistics are correct, is she really the tallest woman in the world.

Guinness Record Holder

As of 2002, when the images first went viral, the distinction belonged to 7-foot 7-1/4-inch Sandy Allen of Indiana, according to The Guinness Book of World Records. Sandy Allen died in August 2008 at the age of 53.

One recent record holder, at 7 feet 9 inches, was Yao Defen of China.  It has been reported that the World's Tallest Woman, Yao Defen, died in November 2012. In 2014, it was announced that Rumeysa Gelgi of Turkey is the World's Tallest Female (Teenager) at 7 feet, 9 inches, which is the same height as China's Yao Defen.

Heather from Holland is no pipsqueak, even if the photos of her are somewhat misleading, as she consistently poses in high heels and stands next to people of shorter-than-average height, thereby enhancing her stature.

The Tallest Living Man

According to Guinness, the World's Tallest Living Man is Sultan Kösen of Turkey, who stands at 8 feet, 3 inches tall. There have only been 10 "confirmed or reliable" instances of people reaching or exceeding a height of 8 feet in all of human history, Guinness says. Interestingly, Sultan Kösen also holds the record for Largest Hands, each one measuring just over 11 inches from wrist to middle fingertip.

Like many who grow unnaturally tall, Kösen has a medical condition known as pituitary gigantism, a result of the pituitary gland producing too much growth hormone. Another symptom, unfortunately, is joint pain. Kösen underwent surgery in 2010 to remove the tumor on his pituitary gland that was causing the overproduction of growth hormone.

The Tallest Married Couple in the World

Born in New Annan, Nova Scotia at a weight of 18 pounds, Anna Swan grew to a height of 7 feet 11 inches by the age of 15 and became one of the more popular "curiosities" at Barnum's American Museum in Manhattan, where she was billed as The Tallest Woman in the World and advertised her height at "over 8 feet tall".

Though she barely escaped with her life when the museum burned to the ground in 1865, Swan continued to tour with Barnum for years afterward and even convinced her 7-foot 9-inch husband to join the show for a time. Unfortunately, she died of heart failure in 1888.

As a benchmark, the average height for an adult American female is currently 5 feet 3.7 inches.

Sources and Further Reading