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Mary Slessor

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Submitted By akunna
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Mary Mitchell Slessor was born in 1848 in Scotland, she was the second of seven children. She credited much of her good character to her upbringing from her deeply religious mother. Her father ran a shoe making business that did not go well, he became an alcoholic, which resulted hardship and poverty for the family. Mary started working to help provide for her family at a very young age, her wages became the primary source of the family income, she worked up to ten hours a day to make ends meet for her family. She became a Christian at a young age. She enjoyed going to church; it was a getaway from her unhappy life at home. Her older brother who was planning to go as a missionary died, at 25 years old, she decided to go in his place. She embarked on her missionary journey to calabar in 1975 where her battle for women’s rights began, she fell sick from malaria several times and eventually passed away in 1915, nearly forty years after coming to Africa, at the age of 66. Mary Slessor has become an inspiration to all who hear her story. She was not only a pioneer missionary, but also an activist for women in general.
Slessor campaigned against injustices against women. Witchcraft and superstition were prevalent in Nigeria when she arrived there because traditional society had been torn apart by the slave trade. Human sacrifice routinely followed the death of a village dignitary for instance tribal customs like killing one wife of a chief in order for her soul to accompany her husband in the dead and custom that broke her heart was 'twin-murder’. The tribes thought that twins were a result of a curse caused by an evil spirit that fathered one of the children. Both babies were brutally murdered by breaking their backs and cutting them up into pieces and left in the evil forest for the insects and wild animal to devour, the mother was ostracized and kicked out of society. Her missionary viewed the ritual murder of twins as an abomination. Her dedicated effort to prevent this absurd superstition was an outstanding success. She successfully fought against the killing of twins at infancy.
I personally would consider her a liberal feminist in the second wave of feminism because she took the time to learn their culture and language in order to help her communicate with warriors, chiefs, witch doctors, and murderers. Her adventures varied from healing hundreds of people, rescuing slaves and wives from being murdered, saving and caring for countless twin children and babies, she even harbored exiled women and adopted unwanted children witnessing the most frightening traditions, as soon as twins were born they sought to obtain possession of them, and gave them the security and care of the Mission House. Slessor also settled many disputes among tribes and neighbors, assisting chiefs in decisions for their tribe, and sometimes just looking a tribal person in the face and telling them about the love of God which no one dared to do. Mary Slessor worked by simply ministering with compassion to the humble needs that came in her way. She visited the sick, cared for the children, encouraged the women, spoke kindly to any who seemed sorrowful or lonely. She never allowed any journey however long; to keep her from carrying all the resources of her nurture to any human need that had been brought to her notice. Her kindness, her courage, her self-denial, her justice, touched the life of many.
During this remarkable journey, Mary Slessor dealt with a lot of obstacles and restrictions. Witchcraft and cruel tribal customs were hard to fight against, regardless, Slessor rescued many twins and ministered to their mothers. She was continuously fighting against this evil practice, often risking her life to stop the leaders from killing twins. She also dealt with the Africans deep fear of magic and superstition. After 3years of mission work in calabar, she fell ill with malaria and as sent home to recuperate. She returned and continued her mission to save these people of Calabar.
Although Mary was born in the suburbs, at the end of the day, her family struggled to make ends meet. Since her father hardly made much money from being a shoemaker and her mother a housewife. One of the factors that made her mission successful was her being of a different skin tone, white. The women she rescued treated her like she was a god, the children touched her skin and she let them play with her hair because they had never seeing any one who looked like that. Mary was able to relate to the women of calabar because during her stay, she endured the loss of her family members and had to deal with several struggles during her life before and after she came to Africa. In 1892 she was made vice-consul in Okoyong, presiding over the native court and in 1905 was named vice-president of Ikot Obong native court. In 1913 she was awarded the Order of St John of Jerusalem. In 2002, a renowned activist in Nigeria, Dr Lawrie Mitchell and his wife established an organization called “The Mary Slessor Foundation” (registered with the Scottish charities in Edinburgh and the corporate affairs mission in the capital of Nigeria, Abuja) it was created in Calabar, exactly were Mary Slessor devoted her life before she died, the foundation is focused on improving the lives of local women in Nigeria by supplying medical clinics, providing food and water for the less fortunate women. It was even said that Queen Elizabeth came to the spot where Mary was set to rest, and laid a wreath on her headstone. Mary Slessor is commemorated today on banknotes issued in Scotland by the Clydesdale Bank, her portrait appears on the obverse of the £10 note, Slessor is illustrated holding children in her arms alongside a map of the Ekoi and Ibibio in Calabar. Because of what she did for the women in calabar, till this day her legacy continues to live in Africa.

Work Cited
Carey Press. 1920. “Stephen Ross for WholesomeWords.org” from Mary Slessor http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/bioslessor8 (Stephen Ross for WholesomeWords.org 1920)

World History. 04 Oct. 2003. "Mary Slessor 1848-1915.
The White Queen of Calabar" http://www.wholesomewords.org/index.html
Harrison, Eugene Myers.

“Mary Slessor of Calabar: Pioneer Missionary”, Mary Slessor of Calabar, by Carol Christian and Gladys Plummer. http://www.historymakers.info/inspirational-christians/mary-slessor.html (W.P. Livingstone 2011)

http://maryslessor.org/

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