Jane Bunford, also known as Ginny Bunford or Jinny Bunford, remains an enigmatic figure in the realm of giants who lived during the 20th century.
She holds a unique place in English medical history as the tallest person ever recorded. In her lifetime, she reigned as the tallest woman globally and potentially held four more records: being twice the tallest living person in the world, first around 1914 and later from May 20, 1921, until April 1, 1922. She may have also boasted the longest hair in Britain during her era.
However, Jane Bunford’s life is shrouded in mystery. No known photographs of her, if they still exist, have ever been shared with the public. In 1972, the Guinness Book of Records acknowledged her existence but only provided a photograph of her skeleton and a copy of her death certificate, which they obtained in February 1972.
Jane’s journey began with rather ordinary roots. Her parents, John Bunford and Jane Bunford née Andrews, of Bartley Green, Northfield, Birmingham, UK, raised her in a simple and unassuming manner. She was an unremarkable, quiet, and well-behaved child who enjoyed good health during her early years.
However, a life-changing accident in 1906 altered the course of her life. At the age of 11, Jane fell from her bicycle and suffered a skull fracture, unknowingly triggering an overproduction of growth hormone from her pituitary gland. It wasn’t until 1915, nine years after the accident, that scientists identified the pituitary gland’s role in producing growth hormones in humans. Unfortunately, no treatment for hyperpituitarism was available during Jane’s lifetime.
Her educational journey was also unconventional. Jane attended St. Michael’s Secondary School in Bartley Green but left before her 13th birthday in 1908. By that time, she had already reached a towering height of 6 feet 6 inches. Her growth continued, and by her 21st birthday, she stood at an astonishing 7 feet 10 inches.
Rather than capitalize on her uniqueness, Jane opted to work at a Cadbury chocolate factory and declined various lucrative offers to appear in shows. She was characterized by her exceptionally long, straight auburn hair, measuring 8 feet 1 inch, which she wore in plaits down to her ankles. When loose, it cascaded like a cloak.
Jane’s health deteriorated over the years, causing her to become reclusive. She developed severe curvature of the spine and could no longer stand upright. Painful joint problems added to her suffering.
Jane Bunford’s remarkable life ended in April 1922, when she passed away from complications of hyperpituitarism and gigantism. Her coffin, an astonishing 8 feet 2 inches long, was likely the longest ever used for a UK funeral. She was laid to rest in her final resting place at St Michaels and All Angels Church, Bartley Green.
However, Jane’s story resurfaced in 1971 when the Guinness Book of Records unveiled the existence of a giantess’s skeleton displayed at Birmingham University. This revelation sparked curiosity, leading to the discovery that the skeleton was indeed Jane’s. Birmingham University, despite confirming the identity, remained silent about how they obtained it. A controversy ensued as her relatives denied involvement in donating her body to medical science.
Jane Bunford’s skeleton remained on display at Birmingham University until 2005, when her family successfully reclaimed it. After a second private funeral, she was finally buried in her family plot, ending her 83-year-long public exhibition. Nevertheless, her resting place is devoid of a headstone, leaving her legacy mostly forgotten in history.
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