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 purport to show the world's tallest woman at 7 feet, 4 inches tall and 320 pounds, in Holland.

Description: Viral images
Circulating since: 2002
Status: False

Example:
Email contributed by P. White, Dec. 17, 2002:

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???? And wouldn't she intimidate you???

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Worlds Tallest Woman

Another view of the so-called
Perspective enhances the effect. Viral image

Analysis: Never forget, this is the Internet. These images do appear to show a very tall woman, but 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 apparently 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, however; 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, that distinction belonged to 7-foot 7-1/4-inch Sandy Allen of Indiana, according to The Guinness Book of World Records (see updates below).

Even so, Heather from Holland is no pipsqueak, even if the photos of her are somewhat misleading (she consistently poses in high heels standing next to people of shorter-than-average height, thereby enhancing her stature -- not that there's anything wrong with that). Albeit with considerably more glamor and self-determination, Heather is basically marketing herself as a modern-day sideshow attraction à la Anna Swan of P.T. Barnum fame circa mid-1800s.

The Tallest Living Man

According to Guinness, the World's Tallest Living Man is Sultan Kösen of Turkey, who stands 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, Guiness 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 (never a stickler for accuracy, Barnum 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. 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.

Update: Sandy Allen died in August 2008 at the age of 53. The current record holder, at 7 feet 9 inches, is Yao Defen of China.

Update #2: It has been reported that World's Tallest Woman Yao Defen died in November 2012. When last I checked,Guinness had not yet listed a new "Tallest Living Woman," though in 2014 it was announced that Rumeysa Gelgi of Turkey is the World's Tallest Female (Teenager) at 7 feet, 9 inches -- the same height as China's Yao Defen.

Sources and further reading:

HeatherHaven.com
Website of "Heather, the Ultimate Amazon"

Goodbye to Sandy Allen, World's Tallest Woman
About.com: Weird News with Buck Wolf

Anna Swan (1846-1888)
Library and Archives Canada