Remembered for Her Campaign Against Human Sacrifice and the Murder of Twins
|Mary Slessor of Calabar|
By Mark Woods
Just over 100 years ago today, a great woman of God died of fever in a remote village in Nigeria. She was Mary Slessor of Calabar, and she had given her life to minister to the people there.
Born in 1848 in Aberdeen to a poor family – her father was a shoemaker but became an alcoholic and could not continue his trade – she was inspired to become a missionary by the death of David Livingstone. After training, she arrived in what is now Nigeria in 1876, at the age of 28.
Slessor suffered badly from malaria at her mission station in Calabar and was forced to return to Scotland. However, on her recovery she returned to Calabar and worked among the Efik people, learning their language and immersing herself in their culture.
She's remembered particularly for her campaign against human sacrifice and particularly the murder of twins, who were regarded as cursed and abandoned in the bush. Slessor sent out 'twins missioners' to find them and would bring them back to her mission compound to be raised.
She is believed to have saved hundreds of lives in this way. She was also a pioneer in education, creating the Hope Waddell Training Institute in Calabar where the children could be given practical vocational training.
Mary Slessor adopted several children to save their lives
She was increasingly recognized for her achievements, being awarded the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in 1913. When she died of fever in a remote village on January 13, 1915, she was given the equivalent of a state funeral. The Union Jack covered her coffin and flags at government buildings were flown at half-mast. There are statues to her at various locations in Calabar today and she is still revered by the Efik people.