Moffatt, Mary Smith (1795–1870)

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Moffatt, Mary Smith (1795–1870)

British missionary to Africa. Born Mary Smith in 1795 in New Windsor, England; died in 1870 in England; daughter of James Smith and Mary (Gray) Smith; married Robert Moffatt (a missionary), on December 27, 1819; children: ten, including Mary Moffatt Livingstone (1820–1862, who married David Livingstone), and several who died.

Born in 1795 in New Windsor, England, Mary Smith Moffatt grew up in Dukinfield, England, the daughter of James Smith, a Scotsman, and Mary Gray Smith . Her education at a Moravian school in England fostered in her a desire to pursue a life of "Christian service," and as a young woman she became engaged to missionary Robert Moffatt. When she was 24, she sailed to South Africa, where they were married in Cape Town in December 1819. The couple then journeyed 600 miles inland to Kuruman, in the interior of Cape Province, living initially in a mud hut. Their first child, Mary Moffatt Livingstone , who would later marry the missionary and explorer David Livingstone, was born there in 1820, and Moffatt would have nine more children, several of whom died young.

The first years of the Moffatts' efforts to convert the local tribes to Christianity were made difficult by language barriers as well as by the resistance of the tribespeople themselves, who balked at attempts to make them into "Dutchmen." In 1828, however, the locals began embracing Christianity in record numbers, and the mission enjoyed a time of new peace and prosperity. Moffatt and her husband journeyed to England for a time in 1839, then returned to the mission at Kuruman Station. In 1870, when she was 75, they finally retired from missionary work and returned to England, where Moffatt died soon after their arrival.


Deen, Edith. Great Women of the Christian Faith. NY: Harper & Row, 1959.

Ellen Dennis French , freelance writer, Murrieta, California

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Moffatt, Mary Smith (1795–1870)

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