Sandy Allen, 53; listed as the world's tallest woman

Sandy Allen, a 7-foot-7 Indiana woman considered the world's tallest female, died after years in a nursing home. Sandy Allen, a 7-foot-7 Indiana woman considered the world's tallest female, died after years in a nursing home. (Associated Press)
By Deanna Martin
Associated Press / August 14, 2008
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INDIANAPOLIS - Sandy Allen, who grew to be 7 feet 7 inches tall and was recognized as the world's tallest female, died early yesterday, a friend said. She was 53.

Ms. Allen, who used her height to inspire schoolchildren to accept those who are different, died at a nursing home in her hometown of Shelbyville, family friend Rita Rose said.

The cause of death was not known. Ms. Allen had been hospitalized in recent months as she suffered from a recurring blood infection, along with diabetes, breathing troubles, and kidney failure, Rose said.

In London, Guinness World Records spokesman Damian Field confirmed yesterday that Ms. Allen was still listed as the tallest woman. Some websites cite a 7-foot-9 woman from China.

Coincidentally, Ms. Allen lived in the same nursing home as 115-year-old Edna Parker, whom Guinness has recognized as the world's oldest person since August 2007.

Ms. Allen said a tumor caused her pituitary gland to produce too much growth hormone. She underwent an operation in 1977 to stop further growth.

But she was proud of her height, Rose said. "She embraced it," she said. "She used it as a tool to educate people."

Ms. Allen appeared on television shows and spoke to church and school groups to bring youngsters her message that it was all right to be different.

Ms. Allen weighed 6 1/2 pounds when she was born. By age 10 she had grown to be 6 feet 3 inches, and by 16 she was 7 feet 1 inch.

She wrote to Guinness World Records in 1974, saying she would like to get to know someone her own height.

"It is needless to say my social life is practically nil, and perhaps the publicity from your book may brighten my life," she wrote.

The recognition as the world's tallest woman helped Ms. Allen accept her height and become less shy, Rose said.

"She got to the point where she could joke about it."

In the 1980s, she appeared for several years at the Guinness Museum of World Records in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

"At Guinness there were days when I felt like I was doing a freak show," she said. "When that feeling came too often, I knew I had to come back home."

Rose is setting up a scholarship fund in Ms. Allen's name, with proceeds going to Shelbyville High School.

"She loved talking to kids, because they would ask more honest questions," Rose said.

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