Back in the days when ‘ladies’ were seldom allowed to venture far without a male chaperone some women simply refused to fit in.
The Suffragettes are the obvious example, but one female crusader who remains compellingly special to former Falkirk High teacher Mariot Dallas is in a different league.
Mamie Martin’s work in Malawi concentrated heavily in improving the desperate lot of African women.
Scotland’s links with Malawi, forged in her day – the first decades of the 20th century – remain strong and just as relevant now.
But what may surprise some who haven’t yet heard of the Mamie Martin Fund is that her living legacy is also every bit as alive today.
Not only that, it is pursued with vigour and determination by several of Mamie’s modern family descendants.
For Mariot Dallas, Mamie is the grandmother she never had the chance to meet as she died in 1928, but there are, for example, great-great grand-children involved in her cause too.
In the 1920’s Mamie’s husband Jack was a Church of Scotland missionary, and contemporaries would have seen his efforts as a bid to bring Christian light into the dark corners of the earth.
In the 21st century that evangelical aspect is no longer what the cause is all about.
Simply put, it is concerned solely with the enormous task of creating opportunities for Malawian girls and women of the sort ‘first world’ countries have taken for granted for years.
Many equality battles have still to be one in the supposedly advanced western world, but in Malawi one of the most crucial causes is education.
It is something Mamie Martin believed in passionately, and is still at the core of the modern effort pursued in her name today.
Mariot says: “Together with the Soko Fund (which is about women in further education) we strongly believe that a girl who gains an education is benefiting not only herself but also her family, eventually her children, and ultimately the whole country.
“But it costs perhaps £300 to send someone to school – in local terms that would be like us buying a decent car – and when families are able to afford that it is going to be a boy who gets the education.”
Mariot has only photographs and diaries to help her “connect” with the grandmother she never knew, but from reading those diaries feels she has gained some insight into the sort of person Mamie really was.
She offers a couple of salient diary quotes – one, from 1922, reads: “At last I feel I am really useful. It is the kind of work I enjoy above all others. I have other schemes brewing, which specially concern the women teachers, of which there are too few”.
Another is from 1924: “The girls are so keen and eager to absorb everything that it is a real pleasure to teach them.
“My girls are a jolly crowd, brimming over with healthy fun and frolics, but withal earnest and serious-minded. I’m just in my element.”
Mamie died giving birth to her second child, but her work is still remembered almost a century later in the areas where she worked.
On Sunday Mariot and other family members and friends, took part in the Wee Jaunt cycle from the Kelpies.
It’s a sponsored outing which allows people of different fitness levels (including some who maybe haven’t cycled any distance for years) to gain some healthy exercise and maybe – as in the Miles for Malawi funds drive – to raise awareness of a worthy cause.
Mariot said: “Last year my brother Willie Sinclair, my nephew John Sinclair, my son in-law Stephen and many friends and supporters of the Mamie Martin and Soko funds did the Pedal Scotland Glasgow to Edinburgh event. The joint cycle team is a symbol of our partnership.”
She added: “There’s no way I could cycle that distance but when I saw that Pedal Scotland did a Wee Jaunt at the Helix, I decided to have a go.
“It’s always good to have a wee physical challenge, and I’ve been delighted that so many friends from Falkirk and beyond have signed up to take part as well. We range in age from three years to those of us who have our bus pass.
“My cycle training has been a challenge and it’s been fun to share my stories on social media and enjoy the online banter and support.
“We’re having fun and getting fitter but it’s good that our money will go to the Mamie Martin and Soko Funds and support girls and women in education.
“I’ve seen for myself on my visits to Malawi the difference an education can make to girls and women.
“My granny Mamie, who I only know through her letters and diaries, was passionate about equality of opportunity in the 1920s. It’s still an issue today”.
The descendants of Mamie Martin who took part in the weekend event were: Mariot Dallas, one of Mamie’s grand-daughters; John Dallas, grandson-in-law; Willie Sinclair, Mamie’s grandson; Eileen Sinclair, granddaughter-in-law; Helen Robbie, one of Mamie’s great granddaughters; Stephen Robbie, great grandson-in-law; Calum Robbie, Mamie’s great great-grandson.
They were joined by many friends, neighbours and supporters.
Anyone wishing to support their effort can do so online at https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/weejaunt.
There’s more on the Mamie Martin Fund at http://www.mamiemartin.org.