Appointed by Bishop Thoburn, Mary travels by steamship her to next post at the Methodist Girls School founded by Sophia Blackmore.

There she confronts a new set of challenges and thanks to her training, she overcomes them. However, it seems that as fast as she trains teachers, they depart for other schools. Homesickness and loneliness afflict her and she seeks new friends, but dismisses a suitor who followed her to Singapore.


The Singapore Years

In the fall months of Mary’s stay in Manila, it was rumored that  there was a kindegarten in Singapore, partially or inadequately directed. A kindergarten of 80 children in their Methodist Girl’s School  was without a trained teacher and four young girl graduates of  their High School were needing "direction" as kindergarten teach- ers. Then next, Bishop Thoburn wrote and confirmed her appoint- ment. She packed and arranged to go alone to Singapore.

She had some funny experiences on the ship going over. She did not take her own carefully chosen deck chair and the only one available was taken by a drunken passenger. She found a corner  to sit out on deck, but the drunk approached her rudely. She  shouted, "Now understand this, l will have nothing to do with you. Leave and go to your cabin". She shouted again and again. The  Captain came to her rescue with a deck chair and later seated her at his table in the dining room.

When she arrived in Singapore, she wrote, "l found here a wide field of activity — a varied world of nationalities. l looked up  on  that first morning scene with mingled anxiety and delight. Here  was a challenge. This place needed every bit of capacity and training l had received". lt would take a whole book to include the problems she met in Singapore. She found the children had never received chairs — only crude benches with no backs. Three year olds  were kept all day with the kindergarten age children. Eighty children in one room in such circumstances! Overbearing girls enforced order that was worse than lawlessness because of the spirit in which it was done. An unsympathetic, lawless, discordant atmos- phere existed where children were "asking for bread and were given  a stone". A Miss Jawall from Fu Chan, China, was remaining there in kindergarten until she could be relieved. She was the real  leader, doing the best she could.

Sister wrote, "A Miss Lilly is at present head of the Deaconess Home where l stay, and also of the whole school. She is hardly the  one for this place. She is a kind hearted earnest soul, but she has had no background training for this position and has gotten into ruts. What satisfies her is distressing to me. l must bring order out of chaos  in the kindergarten and primary department."


"The Deaconess Home is at the top of a hill, and the school, down  a  winding road, at the bottom. I can get a "ricksha" to take me  to and from the school. When I return I go up to my room and  onto the veranda where I toss the coins to the "ricksha" boy. It is  the only safe way to do, because he cannot plead for more coins and stand and upset me. I wish I could break the regulation fee, but  I  dare not. Anyway, I am glad I do not weigh more than 99 pounds." The climate was so devastating that finally the head worker  obtained a horse and small carriage for Mary so that she need not ride her bicycle or hire a ricksha to get her to school.

She had over eighty children in kindergarten and fifty in primary class. It was something for a missionary on a small salary to  look up at a wealthy Chinese woman, loaded with a fortune of jewels, who came to ask about kindergarten for her children. A Chinese banker came bringing his four "Celestials" as he called them. Mary was pleased with his poise and manner until he asked that she  keep them all day. When she refused, he was just as gracious, saying “alright", with his big smile. She had no facilities for keep- ing  the little children the whole afternoon. She once wrote, "I prefer  the Chinese people to the Eurasians, Tamils, Indians or Phillipines".

One difficulty that Mary encountered, in addition to the mixed  nationalities, was that in those days Chinese boys were often dressed as girls. Back of that was the superstitition that Evil Spirits did not care about girls, but set their sights on boys who were valuable. When she took the children to the party given by Mrs. Rodgers, the wife of the Director General of the British Regency— the Chinese boys wore beautiful velvet trousers and embroidered waists and vests, also expensive jewelry. It was not hard to tell the boys from the girls. One Chinese girl, whom Mary thought was a boy,  was clever at calisthenics and dancing. She demanded more attention than the others, saying, "give I first!" When captains of tables were chose, she proclaimed, "give I first!" Mary asked them all  to sing an especially liked kindergarten song "Pretty Little Blue Bird" — the same little girl piped up and sang it all by herself in broken English. Mrs. Rodgers was concerned about the jewelry- ladened Chinese children, so Mary took them all to their various homes, as darkness had fallen and no Chinese child was allowed out  after dark.

In the Kindergarten and Primary classes, little by little, Mary led the children out of their unresponsive attitudes into loving attention.   Their  hearts  warmed  to  her,  as  children  the world over


will when given the right approach. Fortunately, one of Miss Wisner’s  graduates, a Miss Gunatalykas, was musical and they had a piano. The mixture of children was, though difficult, delightful: Tamil,  Burmese, Eurasian, Chinese. Mary had an experience with a  few Jewish children who came so dirty all the other children shunned them. So she called in the home of one family and ex- plained about cleanliness to the parents. Next day a little boy returned  in a new pair of velvet Chinese—type trousers, a clean mended shirt, a big hat which kept him from seeing and shoes two sizes too big. He could not find his way. A little English girl said, "Miss  Cody, I show him". The big circle of 80 children sat absolute- ly  quiet watching their Miss Cody as she gave an expression of approval to the little helpers. That Jewish boy was not shunned after  that, and others came with clothes patched up and faces scrubbed.

Mary’s greatest difficulty was in getting enough older high school girls to train as teachers. Some had received only one year of  high school. She often repeated, “lt is a privilege to train these girls  of many nationalities in methods which are so far away from their  life experience. They must learn dignity and love and gentle guidance and how to demonstrate by the story method and games." I  quote from a letter, "One of the girls helping to run the kinder- garten  was an Eurasian girl. She saw all the changes I was bringing about. She said to Miss Lilly, standing beside me, ’I wanted to have  chairs for the children, and a circle painted on the floor and you  would not allow me to have them. Miss Cody walks straight ahead and brings everything that is proper to have and gets what she  needs! It was a little hard for Miss Lilly to take, but I could see  how this girl had suffered under Miss Lilly’s constant refusuals."

"They needed so much that was in my power to give. It was a  joy to watch the teachers’ development as well as the childrens’. I  was fully compensated. I knew that in their homes they heard so much of weird superstitions, of the appearance of Evil Spirits, and that  ancestors whom they feared would bring calamity upon them if  they were not properly worshipped. The children came early to School, and when I came in, the eagerness of their calls, ’Miss Cody Comes! Miss Cody ComesI’, was a great reward for my struggles against problems which came from so many angles — all to be solved! !"

No life is complete that does not have suffering. In start- ing  a  new work we feel an exile from others of our kind and from happiness.   We  find  joy  in  service,  but  we  do  crave  a  fellowship


with others who would enrich our lives. I know my sister cried out, "Oh, if I could comfort myself against the sorrow of aloneness," even  though she had the joy of pouring out love. One suffering she  had was in losing a student in her Training Class. One of her letters tells about a Chinese girl whom she found, beautifully adapted to the Kindergarten methods, but her English writing was so poor, each lesson had to be rewritten for her. It was easier to rewrite it than  to try to correct. Sister was not surprised when the girl told her  she had been educated in Burmese until she entered the 5th Standard in an English School. There she learned to speak English for the first time. Though she spoke well, it was her writing Mary could  not fathom. Now the girl herself felt this deficiency. Her Chinese friends had been writing her, offering to pay her expenses if  she wanted to return to her old school and complete the high school courses, especialiy English language writing. Her teachers wrote that they too would accept her. Mary wrote, "I was amazed. I  had not fully appreciated her strength of character. Tho’ I had no  one to take her place, I had to encourage her. In a weeks time, we  made complete arrangements. I obtained some cotton yardage and we made her a dress and blouse and skirt. You understand, she must dress as a European on the boat. It would not be safe in her native clothes. Today I took her to the boat and introduced her to a  girl also going first class to Burma. Besides I introduced her to the Captain, a very nice gentleman who assured me he would watch over  her. In the cabin next to her was a Chinese woman with bound  feet. This poor, enslaved high-class Chinese woman would not be able to leave her cabin, her tiny hot cabin, the whole six days.  Ella said immediately, 'I will try to help her.' I hate so to part with any of my girls. This caused me real suffering. I gave her a letter  of introduction to Dr. Cotu, who is in Rangoon, who will see  that  she gets on her steamer in Maulmain, where there is a Baptist School in which she intends to study medicine as soon as she  perfects her English writing. I asked her to promise to return but  she could not. This strong charactered girl had lived with an orphan group, working her way, food costing her $3.00 a month, (mostly rice) and living on her zeal for progress. I have another girl  like her, an orphan who has the same strength of character whom I must train to take her place." This day ended by Sister attending a  Youth Meeting for Christian teaching and playing the piano for choir practice. For such a strenuous day she did not go unpunished She had to stay in bed the following day.

Her letters show that often her work was not without humor. Mary wrote, "Our kindergarten crocodile nearly starved so I gave him  to the father of one of my children to keep. I took him in my carriage,  with  a  couple  of  older  children,  to  his  new home.   The


tortoise has gone on a vacation. She looked in vain for her friend the  crocodile. Yesterday she came walking across the campus, home again. How pleased the children are; animals are like little humans to  them."

"We have in Singapore a splendid Anglo-Chinese School for boys — over 600, l believe. Miss Lilly and l took dinner there on one  of my first evenings. Mr. Lyons, the principal of the school, is  a  fine man, well qualified for his position. He had to bring reform against opposition. He advised me on the side to put things on a right  basis from the first, for it will be easier than to continence it for  a  while. We spent such a pleasant, cheery evening at this dinner party for my benefit. The table was prettily decorated with flowers and  ferns, oh, and some delicious ice cream such as we never got in  Manila. Then after dinner we had games. Such a contrast to  the  very poor meals in Manila and our constant problems, with no  relief in sight and never a good meal or a game."

In contrast to the hard work of building up the two schools, Mary wrote pages of description about the lovely view from the Deaconess Home and about the beauty of the trees and foliage. Even  in the streets of Singapore, Mary enjoyed the Cosmopolitan character of the city and the orderliness. These letters will have to be  omitted as my story grows too long. However, in Singapore she was blessed for a time with some English friends, the Benjafields. When she had too many difficulties at the Deaconess Home, her residence, she always got a warm welcome at the Benjafields. Her  room at the Residence was being painted, a long drawn out process, so she fled to these friends and their cordiality. The atmosphere of refinement and home likeness was a relief from the Deaconess Home. Mr. Benjafield teased Mary saying, "There is no other Country but England, you know." She teased him because he often said, "Fancy that." They teased her some times about a suitor  who followed her to Singapore. Mary blushed easily. Then she  wrote a long letter to me, her little sister, explaining why she could not respond to this particular applicant for her affection (who had even hired a boat to meet her steamer in port). Now years later,  after reading about that happiness, l am sending waves of thank you thoughts to them, who no doubt are in the land beyond. I  am so grateful for their kindness to my sister, so far away in a strange land.

She wrote, "We do have unity in spite of variety. What strides  the world would make, if all European Countries could do for their  subject  people  what  the  United  States  is setting out to do for


the Phillipines, and what Great Britain has and is doing for people  in  Singapore. Because of their presence, our mission has 1,100 boys in its school here in Singapore. This would not be possible except for the presence of cooperating British officials."

While Mary was in Singapore, my mother wrote to her, con- cerned, because of a case of Bubonic Plague on an American steamship, She replied in her next letter, "Oh, so you had a case of  Bubonic Plague from an American Steamer. We could not possibly innoculate all Americans before leaving for the Orient as much as our missionaries were. Nor can we know for sure that the  Orientals coming to our shores have been made immune from carrying diseases. Plagues can so easily be transmitted on steam- ers." Mary saw all that nearly fifty years ago, and now, with four or  five wars going on in the world, how much more danger there is of disease spreading fast. Yet there are those in this day of 1973 who oppose medical missions and training of Native doctors. How short sighted they are! ! Many times l have had to answer such taunts when my friends learned that l was giving financial help to medical missions which trained "nationals".


The International Cody Family Association