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The woman who made it possible for Sophia Blackmore to serve in Singapore

Mary Nind: One of most influential women in Methodist Church

Mary Clarke Nind – ‘Our Little Bishop’

METHODIST readers are, no doubt, acquainted with the beginnings of women’s work in Singapore and Malaysia pioneered by Sophia Blackmore from 1887. They will have heard of Methodist Girls’ School and Fairfield Girls’ School, as well as Nind Home, the cradle of a large number of girls who were brought up to take their rightful places in society.

But who was Mary Clarke Nind, who made it possible for Sophia Blackmore to serve here?

Born in England in 1825, Mary Clarke was one of a family of six children – a family of pious folk who got all their children to accept the Lord, Mary herself being converted at the extraordinarily young age of five.

It was an experience that remained fresh and delightful in her memory. By the age of 12, she was teaching in the Sabbath School and at the age of 14, she joined the Congregational Church.

Married to James Nind, the couple emigrated to the United States where they settled in Illinois and had five children.

But Mary appears to have been “tormented” in her spiritual life as she saw older folk struggling to achieve a life of salvation. “Must I go on to thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years, and still have to fight against my easily besetting sins, and every now and then be conquered? Is there no hope of victory all the time?”

It was through a pastor of her Congregational Church who had been aligned to the Methodist movement who taught her about sanctifying grace.

When he was dismissed from the Church he served, some 40 members moved to the Free Methodist Church, and Mary occasionally attended Methodist meetings. As a result she was disciplined and charged with “schism” – holding Methodist doctrines as a Congregationalist.

In her confusion, she grappled with her devotion to her Church, and her desire to reach a “higher life” through sanctification.

One of her women friends who had suffered from many afflictions herself, encouraged her: “Mrs Nind, … if I were you I would go into the Methodist Church. You will be happier and more useful there, for there is more liberty for women to exercise their gifts.”

Taking this as a divine cue, she joined the Methodist Episcopal Church where she “raised a new Ebenezer of gratitude …” Consecrating herself to the Lord and His service, she wrote the story of her spiritual struggle and final victory in a leaflet entitled, “Into the Light”, that was widely used during the American Civil War as a source of inspiration.

Moving to Minnesota in 1866, she engaged in evangelistic work, forming the Western branch of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) and became the first to enlist. In the next 18 years she raised US$17.5 million for the WFMS on “two cents and a prayer a day” from the women of the Methodist Church.

As an evangelist, she travelled throughout America, China, Tibet, India, Japan, Africa and South America with messages of salvation.

Her influence was such that she became known worldwide as “Mother” Nind in the WFMS, as well as “Our Little Bishop” among Methodists who considered her one of the greatest women of influence in the Methodist Church which she served till she died in 1905.

Nind Home: Girls at play in the compound.

‘Frozen Minnesota will send the Gospel to the women of the Equator’Mary Nind’s historic pledge in 1885

Nearer home, it was in 1885 when the General Executive Committee of the WFMS decided that it was impossible to open a new mission, that Mary Nind uttered the now historic sentence, “Frozen Minnesota will send the Gospel to the women of the Equator.”

The women of Minneapolis appropriated US$3,000 to open women’s work in Malaysia, but the money really came from Mrs Nind herself, and Sophia Blackmore’s ministry to this part of the world was assured.

Appropriately, Sophia Blackmore’s efforts at female education at Methodist Girls’ School and Fairfield Girls’ School, and the hostel purchased in 1894 and becoming known as Nind Home, were blessed by a visit by Mrs Mary Nind herself the following year. The girls were thrilled to listen to the grand old lady of 70 who had come so far to encourage them.

Many of them, together with those who were educated at MGS and Fairfield, became useful and effective in education, in business and the professions, and keen and successful homemakers. Her vision and faith in women’s work had been more than justified.

Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.



Children at Nind Home, initially known as Mary C. Nind Deaconess Home, circa 1895. Standing in the back row, centre, is Sophia Blackmore.