Born 4th August 1822, Funchal, Madeira.
Died 13th June 1896, Clapham London. Buried in Brookwood Cemetery, Woking.
As a young child Mary spent almost eight years living with her uncle and aunt (Arthur Benoni
and Anne Evans
) at Market Bosworth in England for health reasons, though in later life she had good health. Mary, like the other daughters, was not sent to school in England as such, so was educated by her mother, aunt and visiting tutors and by wide reading. She was responsible for teaching her young brothers until they went to England for more formal schooling.
Under one visiting tutor she took a course in Latin and he pronounced her as competent as any undergraduate.
Like all the family, Mary spoke Portuguese fluently and she became involved in the life of Madeira by helping the poor and illiterate people with day-to-day problems concerning employment, housing, dealing with officialdom and the like. Her charitable work became well known and rich philanthropists would often ask her how their donations could be best used. When the Empress of Brazil visited Madeira she appointed Mary her almoner, giving her 100 Reis a month to help wherever she saw fit.
Mary kept a diary from 1839 to 1843, recording her everyday pursuits. This diary is now in the Lambeth Archive and has been the subject of study by Claudia Faria who has done much research on the role of the Phelps family in Madeira. In 1840 Mary and her older sister Bella
, visited Tenerife, and this visit is recorded in detail in the diary.
Mary played the organ regularly for church services in Madeira and in 1859 she visited her brother Joe in Newfoundland where she played the organ at the Cathedral in St Johns.
Moving to live with her parents in England in 1861, Mary, like her sister Bella
, was an Associate of the Sisterhood of Saint Margaret. In 1865 she visited her sister Harriet in Natal where she was appalled at the primitive conditions and helped to install an improved kitchen.
When Mary died at the Carmo, Clapham, aged 73, the house was let and later expropriated for widening of the railway. It was not, however, demolished but is still occupied today.
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