This is the day that … Mary Bosanquet Fletcher was born in Leytonstone, in Essex England in 1739. (Some writers give the date of her birth as 12 September).
Her interest in the Christian faith began when she was only six years of age, through a Methodist maid employed by her parents. She took seriously Wesley’s preaching to “give all you can” using her own financial resources and her time to provide for persons in need. She became a class leader and then a preacher.
In 1763, she and Sarah Ryan took charge of a large house in Leytonstone, her birthplace, which became a sanctuary for the most destitute and friendless people in London. The house became a school, orphanage, hospital, and half-way house all-in-one. Thus she became one of John Wesley’s most faithful co-workers.
“People threw dirt at our People as they left on Sundays,” she wrote, “and they would put their face to the window and howl like wild beasts …”
But the work continued to grow. She travelled “far afield to speak at meetings, in the open air or more usually to meet classes.”
On 12 November, 1781, she married the godly Rev. John Fletcher, a Church of England clergyman who was very much in sympathy with the Methodist movement and who was John Wesley’s designated successor. John died four years later, leaving Mary to outlive him by almost 30 years.
Mary struggled with the calling to be a preacher, as did other Methodist women preachers. Wesley encouraged them, seeing the great effectiveness they had in their work. Wesley wrote to Mary, saying she had “an extraordinary call” to be a lay-preacher.
Maldwyn Edwards, Methodist minister and historian, writes that Mary Fletcher’s life was a “pattern of complete devotion to God in which she never withheld either her time or money or energy. Her incessant work for others, ranging from her care of children to her visitation of those in greatest need, and her undiminished zeal in communication “the glad tidings of salvation” may possibly have been paralleled in early Methodism, but never exceeded.”
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.