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Sandy Allen

Although she inhabited the upper reaches, Sandy Allen was remarkably down-to-earth. Recognized by Guinness World Records as the World’s Tallest Woman in 1975, the Shelbyville resident held that title until her death August 13, 2008. Born a normal-sized baby in Chicago in 1955, Allen was raised by her grandmother in Shelbyville Indiana. A tumor on Allen’s pituitary gland made for a six-foot-tall ten-year-old, who kept rocketing higher until an operation capped her stature at 7 feet 7 ¼ inches.

Although ostracized as a child, Sandy came into her own once recognized for her record-breaking height. Frequently appearing at the Guinness museum in Niagara Falls, Sandy’s renown increased with her role in Federico Fellini’s Oscar-winning 1976 film Casanova . The subject of numerous documentaries, Allen hoped to inspire schoolchildren with her own educational video, It’s OK to be Different . Sandy’s personal philosophy evinced a distinctly Hoosier flavor: “You’ve got to be proud of yourself,” she said, “no matter what you are. Be proud of yourselves and make the best of what you’ve got.”

Given the strain of her immense structure, Sandy had been confined to a wheelchair for the last ten years of her life, which she spent at Shelbyville’s Heritage House Convalescent Center—incidentally the home of another world record-holder. Edna Parker, born in 1893, is the world’s oldest woman. Although Sandy’s successor is still the subject of dispute, the tallest woman on the planet these days may be China’s Yao Defen.

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