Mary Slessor the ‘Mother of all Peoples’

Mary Slessor of Calabar

Mary Slessor is an unlikely hero.  She was a tough working class, single woman from Dundee, Scotland, who was able to penetrate the interior of Nigeria and reach tribes who were so hostile to the white invaders that the men who had attempted the task before her had been murdered.

Although considered unconventional by Europeans, and certainly determined in character, she became a genuine peace-maker in numerous ways.

A statue honouring Mary Slessor, in Akpap Okoyong, Nigeria

She established schools and became well known in her struggle to reverse the practice of condemning twin babies to death. She fought for the acceptance of the small-pox vaccinations amongst the local people. She certainly served as an able fore-runner to the many church planters that followed her to Nigeria.

She gained such respect that at times she was called upon to act as a judge to help settle disputes between tribes.

A peace-maker and reformer

Mary Slessor wasn’t a church planter and didn’t gain great numbers of converts but as a Christians peacemaker and human rights reformer she was an unparalleled success.

Like her fellow Scot, David Livingstone, she was considered unconventional by European standards. Slessor lived amongst the people in a mud hut, certainly unusual for western missionaries at the time.

The British authorities respected her, and called upon her for help, actually funding some of her projects – but they were also exaperated by her: she had somehow freed herself from the European obsession with time keeping and therefore kept very irregular and unpredictable hours; infuriating to the British.

Mary Slessor in later years. Photo © Dundee City Council, McManus Galleries and Museum, 2008

But she much loved by the local Efik peoples, was fluent in their language and genuinely adapted her life to serve them.  She was named ‘The Mother of all Peoples’ by the locals. She remains a challenging example of Christlikeness to all believers.

Mary Slessor, honoured in Scotland

The Scottish Clydesdale Bank honoured her memory by having her image on the £10 note.

For more on Mary Slessor go to The Dundee City Website

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides