INDIANAPOLIS — Sandy Allen, who grew to be 7 feet, 7 inches tall and was recognized as the world's tallest female, died Wednesday (Aug. 13, 2008), 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.
"She loved talking to kids because they would ask more honest questions," Rose said. "Adults would kind of stand back and stare and not know how to approach her."
The cause of death was not yet 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 Wednesday that Ms. Allen was still listed as the tallest woman. Some Web sites 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.
After Ms. Allen was listed by Guinness as the world's tallest woman, she won a role in Federico Fellini's 1976 film Casanova, appearing as "Angelina the Giantess." She was featured in the 1981 Canadian documentary Being Different. She also appeared in a TV movie called Side Show in 1981.
Ms. Allen weighed 6.5 pounds when she was born in June 1955. By the age of 10 she had grown to be 6-foot-3, and by age 16 she was 7-1.
She wrote to Guinness 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.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said he met Ms. Allen twice. "Then, and from a distance, I admired very much the way she handled a uniquely difficult situation with uncomplaining grace," he said.