Slessor, Mary

Reference code(s): GB 0237 Edinburgh University Library Gen. 766/6
Held at: Edinburgh University New College Library
Title: Slessor, Mary
Date(s) of contents: 13 February 1913
Level of description: Fonds
Extent and medium: 2 items (1 letter and 1 envelope)


Name of creator(s): Slessor, Mary Mitchell (1848-1915)

Administrative/Biographical history: Mary Slessor, Scottish missionary in eastern Nigeria, was born in 1848 in Aberdeen. Her father, a shoemaker, was an alcoholic and her mother a deeply religious woman. The family moved to Dundee in 1858 where Slessor began working in the linen mills at the age of eleven. She joined the local Christian youth club and became convinced of a call to be a missionary. In 1876 the United Presbyterian Church agreed to send her to Calabar as a mission teacher. She worked first in the missions in Old Town and Creek Town but in 1888 went alone to work among the Okoyong. For the rest of her life Slessor lived a simple life in a traditional house with Africans, concentrating on pioneering. Her insistence on lone stations often led her into conflict with the authorities and gained her a reputation as somewhat eccentric, but she was heralded in Britain as the 'white queen of Okoyong'. She was not primarily an evangelist but concentrated on settling disputes, encouraging trade, establishing social changes and introducing Western education. Slessor frequently campaigned against injustices against women, took in outcasts and adopted unwanted children. 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. Slessor suffered failing health in her later years but remained in Africa where she died in 1915.

Custodial history:

Immediate source of acquisition: The letter was given to Edinburgh University Library, Archives and Special Collections by R. Maxwell Young, nephew of Mrs Aggie Young, in 1966.


Scope and content/abstract: Letter from Mary Slessor at Ikpe, Calabar, West Africa to Mrs Aggie Young at Duke Town, Calabar, about the latter's return to England.

System of arrangement:


Language: English.

Conditions governing access: Contact the repository for details.

Conditions governing reproduction: Contact the repository for details.

Finding aids: Alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives. The collection is mentioned in the Edinburgh University Library subject checklist (C3) Manuscripts on Africa.


Related material: Correspondence, diaries and miscellaneous papers of Mary Mitchell Slessor (1874-1914) are held by Dundee Museums and Art Galleries; correspondence (1903-08) is at Dundee Central Library; letters to Charlotte Crawford (1876-1914) are at Dundee City Archives; and some Slessor papers are at the National Archives of Nigeria. Other missionary collections relating to the Calabar mission can be found at Edinburgh New College Library and Special Collections.


Archivist's note: Compiled by Caroline Brown, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives.

Note: The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions Gerald H. Anderson (ed.) (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998). (2) Dundee City Council, Central Library web page on Mary Slessor.

Date(s) of descriptions: 7 July 2000


Personal names
Slessor | Mary Mitchell | 1848-1915 | United Presbyterian Church of Scotland missionary in Nigeria

Corporate names
Calabar Mission (Malawi)

Calabar (Nigeria)
West Africa