Maria Dyer



Maria Dyer (b. 1803, ? d. 21 October, 1846, Penang, Malaysia) established girls’ schools and inculcated Christian values and behaviour in her Chinese pupils. In Singapore, she founded the earliest girls’ school, the Chinese Girls’ School, which is present-day St Margaret’s School. She is married to Samuel Dyer, an agent of the London Missionary Society, who devoted his life to mission work in the Straits Settlements.

Early Life1
Maria Dyer was born Maria Tarn. The eldest daughter of Joseph Tarn – one of the directors in the London Missionary Society – she married Samuel Dyer, a missionary under the charge of the London Missionary Society bound for the Straits Settlements, in March 1827.

Missionary Life in Penang and Malacca
Leaving England shortly after their wedding, the Dyers arrived in Penang in August 1827.2 They were headed for the Malacca mission, but settled in Penang instead due to the lack of workers there.3 The couple worked hard to establish Chinese schools, and both learned the Hokkien dialect in order to reach out to the boys and girls separately.4 Maria, in particular, had a soft spot for orphaned girls.5 By 1828, Maria had established a school for 22 Chinese girls in Penang.6 In addition, Samuel Dyer worked to produce a fount of movable Chinese metallic types for printing Chinese Christian literature.7 The couple left Penang for Malacca in October 1835 after eight years of service.8 They remained in Malacca till 1839 when Maria was taken ill, and the Dyers returned to England on furlough.9

Missionary Life in Singapore
Returning to the Straits Settlements in February 1842, the Dyers resided in Singapore.10 They brought along Miss Buckland, who proved to be a great help to Maria in teaching the Dyer children, and later in assisting with teaching duties at the boarding school.11 With the approval of the London Missionary Society, Maria started a boarding school for 19 Chinese girls under agreement from their parents or guardians for differing lengths of stay.12 Known as the Chinese Girls’ School, the school took in girls who were orphans or had fallen victim to child slavery (known in Cantonese as mui tsai).13 It was located in a house along North Bridge Road.14 In addition to an elementary education in English, the girls were taught homemaking skills in preparation for marriage.15

Following the death of her husband in 1843, Maria became a salaried missionary of the London Missionary Society and continued to work in the Chinese Girls’ School and appointed Miss Grant as its first principal.16

Return to Penang
With news that the Chinese ports were open to trade, the London Missionary Society withdrew their missions in the Straits Settlements and Maria moved to Penang with her children in 1844.17 The following year, she married Johann Georg Bausum (also known as John George Bausum), a German missionary based in Penang.18 Maria died in Penang in 1846, leaving her orphaned children under the care of Bausum.19 She was buried at the Northam Road Cemetery in Georgetown, Penang.20

Their surviving children followed in their footsteps and were involved in evangelising the Chinese in their adult years.21 Samuel Dyer, Jr., was a British and Foreign Bible Societies (BFBS) agent in Shanghai from 1877 while Burella Dyer, who married John Burdon of the Church Missionary Society, taught in Ningpo.22 Their youngest daughter, Maria Jane, later married Hudson Taylor, the missionary who began the China Inland Mission.23

Accomplishments
Many successful female teachers in the Straits Settlements were wives of missionaries. Maria Dyer was one such example. Throughout her life in the Straits Settlements, she worked relentlessly to provide education and build schools for girls. The aim of the mission schools then was to instil Christian values and behaviour in their pupils. One of the ways is to teach them to read and write so that they are able to read Christian literature. The Chinese Girls’ School that Maria founded in 1842 is today known as St Margaret’s School (in honour of Queen Margaret of Scotland).24



Author

Irene Lim



References

1. Davies, E. (1846). Memoir of the Rev. Samuel Dyer: Sixteen years missionary to the Chinese [Microfilm no.: NL 29339]. London: J. Snow, pp. 45, 51.
2. Wylie, A. (1967). Memorials of Protestant missionaries to the Chinese: Giving a list of their publications and obituary notices of the deceased. With copious indexes. Taipei: Cheng Wen Publishing Company, p. 52. (Call no.: RCLOS 266.40951 MEM); Davies, E. (1846). Memoir of the Rev. Samuel Dyer: Sixteen years missionary to the Chinese [Microfilm no.: NL 29339]. London: J. Snow, pp. 57–58.
3. Davies, E. (1846). Memoir of the Rev. Samuel Dyer: Sixteen years missionary to the Chinese [Microfilm no.: NL 29339]. London: J. Snow, pp. 57–58.
4. Davies, E. (1846). Memoir of the Rev. Samuel Dyer: Sixteen years missionary to the Chinese [Microfilm no.: NL 29339]. London: J. Snow, pp. 67, 73.
5. St Margaret’s Secondary School, Ex-students’ Association. (2014). Lest we forget: CEZMS- St Margaret’s the Boarding School, 1842-1961. Singapore: St Margaret’s School, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 373.222095957 LES)
6. St Margaret’s School. (2002). Great is thy faithfulness: the story of St. Margaret’s School in Singapore. Singapore: St. Margaret’s School, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 373.5957 SAI)
7. O'Sullivan, L. (1984). The London Missionary Society: A written record of missionaries and printing presses in the Straits Settlements, 1815–1847, Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 57(2), p. 64. Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Branch, Royal Asiatic Society. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 JMBRAS)
8. Davies, E. (1846). Memoir of the Rev. Samuel Dyer: Sixteen years missionary to the Chinese [Microfilm no.: NL 29339]. London: J. Snow, pp. 116–117.
9. Davies, E. (1846). Memoir of the Rev. Samuel Dyer: Sixteen years missionary to the Chinese [Microfilm no.: NL 29339]. London: J. Snow, p. 205.
10. Missionary Work in Singapore. (1890, January 20). Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Davies, E. (1846). Memoir of the Rev. Samuel Dyer: Sixteen years missionary to the Chinese [Microfilm no.: NL 29339]. London: J. Snow, p. 222; Wylie, A. (1967). Memorials of Protestant missionaries to the Chinese: Giving a list of their publications and obituary notices of the deceased. With copious indexes. Taipei: Cheng Wen Publishing Company, p. 53. (Call no.: RCLOS 266.40951 MEM)
11. Missionary Work in Singapore. (1890, January 20). Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Davies, E. (1846). Memoir of the Rev. Samuel Dyer: Sixteen years missionary to the Chinese [Microfilm no.: NL 29339]. London: J. Snow, pp, 215, 244.
12. St Margaret’s Secondary School, Ex-students’ Association. (2014). Lest we forget: CEZMS- St Margaret’s the Boarding School, 1842-1961. Singapore: St Margaret’s School, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 373.222095957 LES); Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. (2014). Maria Dyer. Retrieved 2016, March 20, from Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame website: http://www.swhf.sg/the-honourees/16-education/103-maria-dyer
13. Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. (2014). Maria Dyer. Retrieved 2016, March 20, from Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame  website: http://www.swhf.sg/the-honourees/16-education/103-maria-dyer
14. Ariff, S. (2002, January 21) Oldest girls’ school celebrates 160th year. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. (2014). Maria Dyer. Retrieved 2016, March 20, from Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame website: http://www.swhf.sg/the-honourees/16-education/103-maria-dyer
15. Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. (2014). Maria Dyer. Retrieved 2016, March 20, from Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame website: http://www.swhf.sg/the-honourees/16-education/103-maria-dyer
16. St Margaret’s Secondary School, Ex-students’ Association. (2014). Lest we forget: CEZMS- St Margaret’s the Boarding School, 1842-1961. Singapore: St Margaret’s School, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 373.222095957 LES); St Margaret’s Primary School. (2012) Our History. Retrieved 2016, March 20, from St Margaret Primary School’s website: http://www.stmargaretspri.moe.edu.sg/about-us/our-history
17. Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. (2014). Maria Dyer. Retrieved 2016, March 20, from Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame  website: http://www.swhf.sg/the-honourees/16-education/103-maria-dyer
18. Doran, C. (1996). "A Fine Sphere for Female Usefulness": Missionary Women in the Straits Settlements, 1815–45. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society69(1), 110–111. Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Branch, Royal Asiatic Society. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 JMBRAS); Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. (2014). Maria Dyer. Retrieved 2016, March 20, from Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame  website: http://www.swhf.sg/the-honourees/16-education/103-maria-dyer
19. Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. (2014). Maria Dyer. Retrieved 2016, March 20, from Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame website: http://www.swhf.sg/the-honourees/16-education/103-maria-dyer
20. Harfield, A. G. (1987). Christian cemeteries of Penang & Perak. London: Published for the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia, pp. 45, 52. (Call no.: RSEA 929.5 HAR)
21. Anderson, G. H. (Ed.) (1998). Biographical dictionary of Christian missions. New York; [Great Britain]: Macmillan Reference USA, p. 192. (Call no.: LR q266.00922 BIO)
22. Anderson, G. H. (Ed.) (1998). Biographical dictionary of Christian missions. New York; [Great Britain]: Macmillan Reference USA, p. 192. (Call no.: LR q266.00922 BIO)
23. Anderson, G. H. (Ed.) (1998). Biographical dictionary of Christian missions. New York; [Great Britain]: Macmillan Reference USA, p. 192. (Call no.: LR q266.00922 BIO)
24. Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. (2014). Maria Dyer. Retrieved 2016, March 20 from Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame website: http://www.swhf.sg/the-honourees/16-education/103-maria-dyer; St Margaret’s Primary School. (2012). Our History. Retrieved 2016, March 20 from St Margaret Primary School’s website: http://www.stmargaretspri.moe.edu.sg/about-us/our-history 



Further resources
Choo, S. (2005, October 23). 6 feisty women grace new Wall of Fame. The New Paper, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Ng, S. (2005, October 23). Wall tribute for women pioneers. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

St Margaret’s School for Girls (1993). 150th anniversary 1842–1992: St. Margaret's School. Singapore: St. Margaret’s School.
(Call no.: RSING 372.95957SAI)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Dyer, Maria, 1803-1846
Educators--Singapore--Biography
Personalities
Missionaries--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies
People and communities