Biography of Mary Slessor
Biography of Mary Slessor

Biography of Mary Slessor

Mary Slessor (1848-1915) was a Scottish missionary who became known for her pioneering work in Nigeria, particularly in the area of Calabar (now part of southeastern Nigeria). She is remembered for her efforts to promote women’s rights, her advocacy for the welfare of children, and her significant contributions to the abolition of twin killing—a traditional practice in some Nigerian communities where one of the twins was believed to be an evil spirit and both infants would be left to die.

Mary Mitchell Slessor was born on December 2, 1848, in Aberdeen, Scotland. She grew up in a poor family, and her father struggled with alcoholism. Despite the financial challenges, Mary received basic education and attended Sunday school, which influenced her Christian faith.

In 1876, Mary Slessor responded to a call for missionaries to work in Calabar, Nigeria, and she volunteered to go. She arrived in Calabar in 1876 and began her missionary work in the region. Initially, she faced numerous challenges, including language barriers, cultural differences, and hostile reactions from local communities. However, she persevered and gained the respect and trust of the people over time.

Mary Slessor’s work primarily focused on promoting women’s rights and improving the lives of children in Nigeria. She rescued abandoned babies and cared for them, often adopting them as her own. She fought against the traditional belief in witchcraft and actively intervened to protect accused individuals from mob violence and wrongful accusations.

One of her most significant achievements was her fight against the practice of twin killing. Mary Slessor played a vital role in persuading the communities to abandon this harmful tradition. She adopted numerous twins who had been abandoned, providing them with love, care, and a better future. Her efforts contributed to a decline in the practice and helped save the lives of countless infants.

Mary Slessor lived and worked in Nigeria for nearly 38 years until her death on January 13, 1915, in Calabar. Her legacy as a pioneering missionary and advocate for women and children continues to be celebrated both in Nigeria and around the world.

Mary Slessor’s life and work have been the subject of books, documentaries, and other forms of media, and she is remembered as one of the most remarkable and influential female missionaries of her time. Her dedication, compassion, and courage have left a lasting impact on the people she served and inspired generations of individuals to pursue humanitarian work.


Mary Slessor became famous for several reasons due to her remarkable work as a missionary in Nigeria. Here are some key factors that contributed to her fame:

Missionary Work:

Mary Slessor’s dedication and commitment to missionary work in Nigeria set her apart. She spent nearly four decades living among the people of Calabar, sharing the Christian faith, and working tirelessly to improve their lives.

Promotion of Women’s Rights:

Slessor was a staunch advocate for women’s rights in Nigeria. In a society where women had limited rights and were often marginalized, she fought for their equality and worked to challenge cultural norms and practices that oppressed women.

Efforts to Protect Children:

Slessor’s unwavering commitment to the welfare of children garnered significant attention. She rescued abandoned babies, cared for them, and provided them with a loving home. She also fought against the harmful practice of twin killing, which further highlighted her dedication to children’s rights.

Abolition of Twin Killing:

One of Slessor’s most significant achievements was her successful campaign against the practice of twin killing. By challenging the deeply ingrained belief that twins were evil spirits, she played a crucial role in eradicating this harmful practice and saving countless lives.

Cultural Integration and Acceptance:

Slessor’s ability to adapt to the local culture and gain the trust and respect of the Nigerian people played a crucial role in her fame. She immersed herself in the community, learned the local language, and lived among the people she served, which earned her widespread recognition and admiration.

Legacy and Inspiration:

Mary Slessor’s legacy as a pioneering female missionary and humanitarian has continued to inspire generations of individuals. Her selflessness, courage, and unwavering dedication to the people of Nigeria have made her a symbol of compassion and a role model for many.

The combination of Slessor’s impactful missionary work, her advocacy for women’s rights and children’s welfare, and her ability to bridge cultural divides has made her widely recognized and admired, both during her lifetime and in the years since her passing. Her fame is a testament to her extraordinary contributions and the lasting impact she made in Nigeria and beyond.

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