A new memorial to an outstanding woman was unveiled recently in the centre of Dundee.
When she died, on January 13, 1915, at the age of 67, she left an amazing legacy, not of money but of influence and lasting change.
She was born in Aberdeen but it was from Dundee that she went to Calabar in Nigeria as a missionary. Her name was Mary Slessor.
The new memorial is worth seeing, as is a stained glass window in the McManus Galleries, dedicated to her in 1923.
Several interesting artefacts from her time in Calabar are also on display there.
Among Dundee’s streets is Mary Slessor Square. Some Clydesdale Bank £10 notes carry her picture – the only non-royal female to have such a place!
She was also the first ever female magistrate in the British Empire.
Her background was one of extreme hardship and poverty.
Her family came to Dundee when Mary was 11, the second of seven children.
Her father was a jobless alcoholic. Her mother worked 58 hours a week in the jute mills for 10 shillings (50p).
Their single-end home was in the crowded Cowgate slums.
Mary herself was a 10-hour-a-day weaver in Baxter’s cotton mill by the age of 14.
Before that, she was a ‘half timer’ (five hours a day). At school in her ‘spare’ time, she was a quick and eager learner.
She went to the Wishart Memorial Church in the Cowgate with her mother.
There, she learned how she needed a personal experience of salvation through faith in Christ.
After her conversion to Christ, her heart became set on missions work overseas.
David Livingstone’s life and exploits in central Africa inspired her.
She sailed from Liverpool to land on the Nigerian coast when she was 28.
Calabar was a wild and wicked place. Brutal fighting, drunkenness, abuse of women, callous disregard for life and all kindred immoralities were commonplace. She courageously stood up against them all.
One particularly horrific practice was the rejection and murder of twin babies at birth.
Against great cultural resistance, Mary rescued dozens of these little ones, brought them into her own mud hut for safety, and adopted several of them as her own. So they called her “everybody’s mother”!
Some websites and many books give fascinating details of this remarkable woman’s life and work.
She preached from the Bible, organised schools, and nursed the sick.
She was a true social worker, reformer, magistrate, arbitrator and more.
But why did she do all that in such a dangerous and difficult place?
She did it because she had heard the call of Christ.
He had called her to salvation and she came and accepted Him.
He called her to service and she went and told others about Him.
People like her are needed today.