One of the most harrowing customs that Mary encountered in this particular part of Africa was in relation to the birth of twins. It was considered that when twins were born, one of them was the child of the devil and as it wasn’t known which twin this was, they both had to be killed. The mothers were then ostracized and banished from their community with no means of support. The rescuing, protection and raising of surviving and abandoned twins and their mothers became one of Mary’s key roles in her work in Africa as well as working to change the culture and beliefs that were held in relation to twins.

Mary adopted some of the abandoned twins as her own. The first of these was Janie whose twin had been killed. Part of the role of a missionary was to look after the local children and teach them reading and writing to enable them to learn bible stories, however they were not encouraged by the mission societies who employed them to adopt them into their own family. Mary, always following her instincts, ignored this rule and is known to have adopted nine rescued children. They became her family and helped her in her work as she gradually worked as the only missionary in more remote parts of Calabar.

Ma was the ideal mother, with us she was not the mistress or the missionary worker, she was our mother and the home our family. She would bake the family bread, but almost all of it goes to the children.
When one is ill, up she carries him on her bed, well tucked, and then she is busy to prepare some barley broth; bare footed, thinly clothed she would move silently lest she would wake the sick child... Dan Slessor, writing as adult in 1948 about his adoptive mother ‘Ma’ Slessor


Scottish Charity No. SC032781

© Mary Slessor Foundation 2016