Mary Bosanquet Fletcher

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Mary Bosanquet Fletcher
Mary Bosanquet Fletcher.jpg
Portrait of Mary Bosanquet Fletcher, created while she preached at Madeley
Born Mary Bosanquet
12 September 1739
Leytonstone, England
Died 8 December 1815(1815-12-08) (aged 76)
Madeley, Shropshire
Nationality British
Occupation Class leader (c. 1763–1815)
Preacher (c. 1763–1815)
Philanthropist (1763–1815)
John Fletcher
(m. 1781; d. 1785)
Relatives Samuel Bosanquet (brother)
Religion Methodist

Mary Bosanquet Fletcher (12 September 1739 – 8 December 1815) was a Methodist preacher. Bosanquet is credited with convincing John Wesley (one of the founders of Methodism) to allow women to publicly preach.[1][2] She, along with her friend and fellow preacher Sarah Crosby, would become the most popular female preachers of their time.[3] Bosanquet was known as a "Mother in Israel," a Methodist term of honor, for her work in spreading the religion across England.[4] Bosanquet was also quite involved in charity work throughout her life.

Early life[edit]

Mary Bosanquet was born to Samuel Bosanquet and his wife Mary Dunster in September of 1739 in Leytonstone. At birth, it appeared that her tongue was fused to the inside of her mouth, and she almost died after it was separated.[5]

Bosanquet's family were rich Huguenots. Her father was Lord of the Manor in Leytonstone, as well as one of the chief merchants in London. Bosanquet had one older sister and two younger brothers.[5] Her brother Samuel was a director of the Bank of England.

Bosanquet grew up quite wealthy, wearing fine clothing and taking vacations to Bath and Scarborough.[5]

Around the age of seven, Bosanquet was introduced to the Methodist religion.[6][7][8] A servant girl in her household was a Methodist, and began speaking about the religion to Bosanquet and her sister.[9] After Bosanquet's parents found out, the servant was fired.[7][8]

When she was thirteen, Bosanquet was confirmed at St. Paul's Cathedral by her father.[5]

Bosanquet's older sister introduced her to a member of the London Foundery Society, a Mrs. Lefevre, when she was thirteen.[5][10] This furthered Bosanquet's interest in the Methodist religion, and she began to reject her luxurious lifestyle. When Bosanquet was sixteen, she began refusing trips to the theater and spas, and began dressing simply.[11][12]


The Foundery, the first Methodist Society Bosanquet attended.

In 1757, Bosanquet met Sarah Crosby, who at this time was a Methodist class leader. Meeting with Crosby was the final push that Bosanquet needed when it came to her conversion to Methodism. Bosanquet then dedicated her life to the church and charity. She rejected her wealth, and became active in the Foundery Society. She began to visit Sarah Crosby and Sarah Ryan in the Moorfields in order to learn more about the religion.[13]

By 1760, tensions between Bosanquet and her family had become pronounced. Bosanquet had rejected the marriage proposal of a rich young man, which angered her parents. Instead, she told them she wanted to devote her life to serving God.[14] Due to this, along with her rejection of wealth and her parents' fear that she would convert her brothers to Methodism,[15] Bosanquet's family asked her to leave.[13] She moved into an unfurnished flat in Hoxton Square. Shortly after Bosanquet settled in Hoxton Square, Sarah Ryan moved in with her.[16]

Bosanquet had a slight change of heart when it came to her wealth in 1763. She decided to accept her wealth, but to use it for charitable purposes. On 24 March 1763, Bosanquet and Sarah Ryan moved to one of the Bosanquet family's properties, nicknamed 'The Cedars,' in Leytonstone.[13][17] Bosanquet and Ryan felt that they were called upon by God to help others.[18] They hoped to establish an orphanage/school modeled after John Wesley's Kingswood School.[19] In 1768, the school was moved to a farm named Cross Hall in Morley.[19][20]

While working together at The Cedars, Mary Bosanquet and Sarah Ryan became quite close. Ryan was like a mother to Bosanquet. Even John Wesley acknowledged their bond, calling them, "twin souls."[4] After Ryan's death in 1768, Bosanquet fell into a depression, her only consolation being dreams she had of Ryan still being alive. Bosanquet's bond was so strong with Ryan that John Fletcher acknowledged Ryan as a part of their partnership during his and Bosanquet's marriage.[4]

After marrying John Fletcher in 1781, Bosanquet decided to close Cross Hall.[21] She and Fletcher moved to Madeley, where they would become co-pastors at the local church.[22]

John Fletcher, Mary Bosanquet's husband

After her husband's death in 1785, Bosanquet remained in Madeley, continuing to preach.[23] She exercised some control over the local church hierarchy by approving curate appointments. Bosanquet continued to do work for the Methodist Church until her death.[24]

In 1793, Bosanquet discovered a lump in her breast. She attempted to dissolve it by praying and taking goosegrass juice. Nine months later, Bosanquet claimed that this method worked and the lump disappeared.[25] However, several years later the lump reappeared. A friend, George Mortimer, sent her advice from a London newspaper, which said that she was to take a piece of dough smaller than an egg, and mix it with hog's lard to make a salve, which she was to put on white leather and rub on her breast.[26] It is unknown if the lump disappeared following this, but Bosanquet did have a lump in her breast upon her death;[24] it could have been this lump, or a third appearance.


John Fletcher and Mary Bosanquet first met between 1756 and 1757 at The Foundery. At this time, Fletcher considered proposing to Bosanquet, but decided against it, thinking that she was too rich to accept his proposal, and that it would be better if he devoted himself to God.[27]

In June of 1781, Bosanquet received a letter from John Fletcher, who said that he admired her and had since they had met.[21] They were married at Batley Church in Yorkshire on 12 November 1781.[28]

Bosanquet and Fletcher moved to Madeley together on 2 January 1782. They started a joint ministry there.[24][29] Bosanquet and Fletcher were co-pastors, and are considered the first 'clergy couple' of the Methodists.[22]

Bosanquet's marriage was short, however, as Fletcher died on 14 August 1785.[30][31]

Charity work[edit]

Plaque reads: "On this site stood "The Cedars," wherein Mary Fletcher, née Bosanquet, resided 1763 – 1768. Erected by L.U.D.R.A. 1909."
Plaque to The Cedars on the site where it once stood.

The Cedars[edit]

In March of 1763, Mary Bosanquet and Sarah Ryan moved into 'The Cedars,' one of the Bosanquet family's properties in Leytonstone.[16] They wished to establish an orphanage/school similar to John Wesley's Kingswood School.[19] Ryan had previously worked at Kingswood, and therefore had the expertise Bosanquet needed in order to set up a similar type of school.[4] Bosanquet and Ryan hired a maid, and took in Ryan's orphaned niece, Sarah "Sally" Lawrence. As they took in more residents and Ryan's health declined, they hired Ann Tripp as a governess.[32][18] Over time, other Methodist women joined Bosanquet and Ryan in their efforts, including Sarah Crosby and Mary Clark.[33]

The women of The Cedars took in members of the poor from London, including those straying from God's path.[16] The residents wore dark purple cotton uniforms and all ate together.[34] The children were taught manners, reading, religion, writing, nursing, and domestic skills in order to prepare them for life beyond the orphanage/school.[35] The children were subject to harsh physical punishment if they misbehaved.[36]

Bosanquet was not just the owner of the orphanage, she was also in charge of much of its operations. She would plan and lead worship, take care of the finances, teach the children, conduct weekly meetings with all of the children, serve as a supervisor for Methodist meetings, and nurse the sick.[37] Bosanquet would even invite sick women into The Cedars to be treated by her, and some of them stayed after they were healed in order to assist Bosanquet in her efforts.[38]

The site of The Cedars today.

Bosanquet and Sarah Crosby instituted nightly Scriptural readings and prayer,[32] due to the lack of a Methodist Society in Leytonstone.[39] In order to have a more religious environment inside of the orphanage, the women asked John Wesley to supply them a preacher. Wesley sent a Mr. Murlin to preach, who evidently had great success, as soon the orphanage became a Methodist Society.[32] Bosanquet and Crosby continued to hold their own religious services on Thursday nights and began to attract large crowds.[40] Bosanquet and Crosby were so successful that The Cedars became a center of Methodism in Leytonstone.[38] Methodist men began to express opposition toward Bosanquet and Crosby's activities, though they were not able to stop them.[41]

Over the five years that the orphanage was in operation, it supported 35 children and 34 adults.[34][42] There were usually 15 to 20 − mostly girls − staying at The Cedars at a time.[18] Bosanquet's work at The Cedars was praised heavily by John Wesley.[9][43][44][45]

In 1768, Bosanquet decided to move the orphanage to the country due to increasing costs, to give a better environment for the children, and to seek out fresh air for Sarah Ryan, who was becoming seriously ill.[46][38]

It is significant to note that the creation of The Cedars did not go over entirely peacefully. When Bosanquet and Ryan first moved in, a crowd of villagers threw dirt at anyone who came out of the house, and constantly yelled at and spied on the residents. Bosanquet was once told that four men were going to attend one of the Methodist meetings held at the home in order to break it up. Indeed, the men came, and Bosanquet treated them kindly. She conducted the meeting as usual, and gave each of the men Methodist pamphlets at the end. The men reportedly took the pamphlets, bowed to Bosanquet, and left peacefully.[47]

Cross Hall[edit]

After leaving The Cedars in 1768, Bosanquet set her eyes on Morley. There she bought a farm which she called Cross Hall, and started an orphanage for fourteen girls.[48] Cross Hall also became a center for the Methodist religion, housing many prominent female figures, including Sarah Crosby, Sarah Ryan, Sarah Lawrence, and Mary Tooth.[49]

The move from The Cedars to Cross Hall was made in order to decrease costs − since the women would be able to grow their own food −, give the children a nice environment, and hopefully improve Sarah Ryan's failing health.[46] However, these ends were never accomplished, apart from giving the orphans fresh air. Bosanquet and the other women had little-to-no experience with farm life, and growing their own food did not prove to be as successful as they had hoped. Additionally, shortly after arriving at Cross Hall, Sarah Ryan died.[38]

Bosanquet met criticism for her work at Cross Hall. Some said that her punishments for the children were too harsh, others that she was creating a convent, that her educating the children was a waste of time since God was the bringer of success, and some even said that she was simply wasting her time.[38] Her family thought that she was wasting her inheritance.[45] Despite these criticisms, however, Bosanquet continued operation of Cross Hall, and only stopped upon her marriage to John Fletcher.

Following her marriage to John Fletcher, Bosanquet closed Cross Hall on 2 January 1782. Before leaving, Bosanquet had ensured that all of the children in her care had been found new homes, or an occupation.[21][38]

Preaching and church work[edit]

While living and working at The Cedars, Bosanquet, along with Sarah Crosby, began to hold Methodist meetings at night.[24][32] They did this because there was no Methodist Society in Leytonstone, but still wanted to create a religious environment within The Cedars.[39] There was some opposition to this by Methodist men, but Bosanquet and Crosby were not stopped by it.[41] In the summer of 1771, Bosanquet wrote to John Wesley to defend hers and Crosby's work, now continuing on at Cross Hall.[50] It is considered to be the first full and true defense of women's preaching in Methodism.[51] Bosanquet's argument was that women should be able to preach when they experienced an 'extraordinary call,' or when God asked them to.[51][52] Wesley accepted this idea, and formally began to allow women to preach in Methodism in 1771.[1][2] Scholar Thomas M. Morrow argues that Wesley only allowed women to preach because they were successful in converting people; he did not have a change of heart, and did not allow women to preach in order to make any sort of statement.[53] According to Morrow, Wesley only did this in order to expand his religion.

In February of 1773, Bosanquet went against Wesley's protocol for women preachers by referencing a text in her sermon. Though Wesley had supported women preaching in public after Bosanquet's letter in 1771, he was still hesitant about allowing women to preach in the same ways as men. However, Wesley seemed impressed by her preaching style, and allowed her to carry on.[24]

While Bosanquet was quite daring and defensive when it came to her preaching, she was not entirely confident in it. In many of her diary entries and letters she expressed immense anxiety about her preaching. Bosanquet was only able to continue with her work due to the support of her friends and fellow preachers.[54]

Bosanquet was a popular preacher, and many attended her sermons. For instance, in September of 1776, Bosanquet addressed a crowd of 2,000 in Golcar.[24][55][56] Several times in her life, Bosanquet's friends encouraged her to become a traveling preacher due to her success and ability. However, she was not fond of the idea, and found her passions to be more centered locally.[57]

After marrying John Fletcher and moving to Madeley, the couple founded a ministry there.[24] Bosanquet and Fletcher worked together as co-pastors. Apparently, Madeley residents were enthralled by their preaching.[22] Previously, Methodists had attempted to convert and preach to the Madeley residents, but were unsuccessful.[30] However, it seemed that Bosanquet had won them over, as they always responded warmly to her.[30] Not only did Bosanquet preach, but she also nursed the sick, met Methodist classes, and held Methodist meetings.[29] She and Fletcher worked together running a school in Madeley, teaching religion, reading, and writing.[58]

Following her husband's death in 1785, Bosanquet was still allowed a prominent role in the hierarchy of the church. Her husband's successor let her advise him on curate appointments.[24] Bosanquet was also allowed to continue living in the vicarage for the rest of her life.[59] She continued to preach at Madeley, and started to preach at the nearby villages of Coalbrookdale and Coalport.[23] Bosanquet also continued to teach, serving as a Methodist class leader for children and adults.[60]

In 1800, Mary Tooth moved in with Bosanquet, and Bosanquet began to train Tooth as her successor.[61]

Bosanquet continued her work within the Methodist Church until shortly before she died. It was reported that in 1814, when she was 75 years old, she still preached five times a week.[24] Her last sermon was given on 25 July 1815.[18] Three months before her death, she stopped taking religious meetings and holding classes.[24][18]


Bosanquet authored a few pamphlets during her lifetime. These pamphlets mostly offered advice for fellow Methodist women. For instance, in her pamphlet Jesus, Altogether Lovely, written in 1766, Bosanquet advises single women to remain faithful to Jesus.[62] An Aunt's Advice to a Niece, written in 1780, outlined further religious instruction when it came to baptism and confirmation.[63] Written in 1785, Thoughts on Communion with Happy Spirits strays from Bosanquet's norm of speaking about religion, and instead talks of the death of her husband, John Fletcher.[63] In the pamphlet, Bosanquet ponders the question of whether her husband is still with her, spiritually.[64]

Bosanquet published several of her letters inside of Armenian Magazine, a Methodist publication.[63]

Though Bosanquet did not personally author the work, she transcribed and preserved The Vision, an account of a religious dream.[65]

A transcript of one of Mary Bosanquet's sermons was recently discovered. Dated 8 June 1794, the sermon was performed in the vicarage in Madeley. The sermon speaks of being faithful and loving toward God.[66]

After Bosanquet's death, Henry Moore compiled letters and diary entries of Bosanquet's and published them together in The Life of Mrs. Mary Fletcher. Although it is an anthology of her diary entries and letters, it is considered to be Bosanquet's most popular writing.[63]

List of published works[edit]


Autobiographical accounts[edit]




  • Fletcher, Mary (2010). Wilson, D.R., ed. "A Sermon by Mary Fletcher (née Bosanquet), On Exodus 20, Preached at Madeley in the Parish Vicarage on the Evening of Whitsunday, 8 June 1794". Wesley and Methodist Studies. 2: 120–122. JSTOR 42909787. 


  • Fletcher, Mary (2016). Cope, Rachel; Kime, Bradley, eds. "'The Vision': A Dream Account Collected and Preserved by Mary Bosanquet Fletcher". Wesley and Methodist Studies. 8.1: 52–66. JSTOR 10.5325/weslmethstud.8.1.0052. 


St. Michael's Church, where Bosanquet was buried.

Mary Bosanquet died on 9 December 1815, and was buried at St. Michael's Church in Madeley, in a shared grave with her husband John Fletcher. She was likely developing breast cancer by the time of her death. Ultimately, it was respiratory illness which took her.[24][18] In her last days, she was placed under the care of her friend and successor, Mary Tooth.[24]

An 1895 map showing the location of The Pastures (top left), formerly the site of Cross Hall.


The Fletcher family held a prominent position at the church in Madeley for three generations. Reports have shown that the churches at Madeley were more popular than those in neighboring regions even as late as 1851, 36 years after Bosanquet's death.[24]

In 1895 Agnes Cotton opened a home for girls in Leytonstone.[67] Cotton purchased what had been The Cedars, Bosanquet's first attempt at an orphanage. She renamed the house as 'The Pastures' and, in time, opened a larger home on the same site.[67]



  1. ^ a b Eason 2003, p. 78.
  2. ^ a b Lloyd 2009, p. 35.
  3. ^ Chilcote 1991, p. 76.
  4. ^ a b c d Lawrence 2011, p. 81.
  5. ^ a b c d e Burge 1996, p. 11.
  6. ^ Chilcote 1991, p. 262.
  7. ^ a b Brown 1983, p. 136.
  8. ^ a b Morrow 1967, p. 65.
  9. ^ a b Chilcote 1993, p. 67.
  10. ^ Morrow 1967, p. 66.
  11. ^ Burge 1996, pp. 11–12.
  12. ^ Morrow 1967, p. 68.
  13. ^ a b c Burge 1996, p. 12.
  14. ^ Brown 1983, p. 138.
  15. ^ Lawrence 2011, p. 58.
  16. ^ a b c Chilcote 1993, p. 68.
  17. ^ Morrow 1967, p. 75.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Brown 1983, p. 54.
  19. ^ a b c Chilcote 2007, p. 32.
  20. ^ Morrow 1967, p. 81.
  21. ^ a b c Chilcote 1993, p. 103.
  22. ^ a b c Chilcote 1993, p. 104.
  23. ^ a b Chilcote 1991, p. 186.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Hargreaves 2005.
  25. ^ Morrow 1967, p. 100.
  26. ^ Mack 2008, p. 183.
  27. ^ Brown 1983, p. 142.
  28. ^ Brown 1983, p. 144.
  29. ^ a b Brown 1983, p. 145.
  30. ^ a b c Chilcote 1991, p. 184.
  31. ^ Brown 1983, p. 146.
  32. ^ a b c d Chilcote 1993, p. 69.
  33. ^ Chilcote 1991, p. 119.
  34. ^ a b Chilcote 2007, p. 33.
  35. ^ Brown 1983, pp. 55, 56.
  36. ^ Brown 1983, p. 55.
  37. ^ Brown 1983, p. 57.
  38. ^ a b c d e f Brown 1983, p. 58.
  39. ^ a b Brown 1983, p. 44.
  40. ^ Chilcote 1993, pp. 69–70.
  41. ^ a b Chilcote 1993, p. 70.
  42. ^ Morrow 1967, p. 77.
  43. ^ Burge 1996, p. 15.
  44. ^ Chilcote 1991, p. 126.
  45. ^ a b Brown 1983, p. 59.
  46. ^ a b Chilcote 1991, p. 129.
  47. ^ Brown 1983, p. 140.
  48. ^ Chilcote 1993, p. 72.
  49. ^ Krueger 1992, p. 43.
  50. ^ Burton 2008, p. 164.
  51. ^ a b Chilcote 1993, p. 78.
  52. ^ Lloyd 2009, p. 34.
  53. ^ Morrow 1967, p. 15.
  54. ^ Chilcote 1993, p. 87.
  55. ^ Chilcote 1993, p. 88.
  56. ^ Morrow 1967, p. 85.
  57. ^ Chilcote 1993, p. 90.
  58. ^ Burton 2008, p. 272.
  59. ^ Brown 1983, p. 147.
  60. ^ Burton 2008, p. 273.
  61. ^ Lenton 2011, p. 141.
  62. ^ Chilcote 2007, p. 138.
  63. ^ a b c d Chilcote 2007, p. 148.
  64. ^ Brown 1983, p. 152.
  65. ^ Cope & Kime 2016, p. 52.
  66. ^ Fletcher 2010, pp. 120–122.
  67. ^ a b Martin 2008.


  • Brown, Earl Kent (1983). Women of Mr. Wesley's Methodism. Edwin Mellen. ISBN 978-0889465381. 
  • Burge, Janet (1996). Women Preachers in Community: Sarah Ryan, Sarah Crosby, Mary Bosanquet. Foundery Press. ISBN 9781858520629. 
  • Burton, Vicki Tolar (2008). Spiritual Literacy in John Wesley's Methodism: Reading, Writing, and Speaking to Believe. Baylor University Press. ISBN 9781602580237. 
  • Chilcote, Paul W. (2007). Early Methodist Spirituality: Selected Women's Writings. Kingswood Books. ISBN 9780687334162. 
  • Chilcote, Paul Wesley (1991). John Wesley and the Women Preachers of Early Methodism. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810824140. 
  • Chilcote, Paul Wesley (1993). She Offered Them Christ: The Legacy of Women Preachers in Early Methodism. Eugene, O.R.: Wipf and Stock. ISBN 1579106684. 
  • Cope, Rachel; Kime, Bradley (2016). "'The Vision': A Dream Account Collected and Preserved by Mary Bosanquet Fletcher". Wesley and Methodist Studies. 8.1: 52–66. JSTOR 10.5325/weslmethstud.8.1.0052. 
  • Eason, Andrew Mark (2003). Women in God's Army: Gender and Equality in the Early Salvation Army. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. ISBN 9780889208216. 
  • Fletcher, Mary (2010). Wilson, D.R., ed. "A Sermon by Mary Fletcher (née Bosanquet), On Exodus 20, Preached at Madeley in the Parish Vicarage on the Evening of Whitsunday, 8 June 1794". Wesley and Methodist Studies. 2: 120–122. JSTOR 42909787. 
  • Hargreaves, John A. (22 September 2005). "Fletcher [née Bosanquet], Mary". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 28 March 2017. 
  • Lawrence, Anna M. (2011). One Family Under God: Love, Belonging, and Authority in Early Transatlantic Methodism. University of Pennsylvania Press. JSTOR j.ctt3fhccb.6. 
  • Lenton, John H. (2011). Religion, Gender and Industry: Exploring Church and Methodism in a Local Setting. James Clarke & Co. Ltd. JSTOR j.ctt1cgfbqr.13. 
  • Lloyd, Jennifer (2009). Women and the Shaping of British Methodism: Persistent Preachers, 1807-1907. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-1-84779-323-2. JSTOR j.ctt155j83t. 
  • Mack, Phyllis (2008). Heart Religion in the British Enlightenment: Gender and Emotion in Early Methodism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521889186. 
  • Martin, Mary Clare (3 January 2008). "Cotton, Agnes". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 18 May 2017. 
  • "Mary Fletcher, nee Bosanquet, portrait". Leodis. Retrieved 18 March 2017. 
  • Morrow, Thomas M. (1967). Early Methodist Women. London: Epworth Press. 
  • Krueger, Christine L. (1992). The Reader's Repentance: Women Preachers, Women Writers, and Nineteenth-Century Social Discourse. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226454887. 
  • Fletcher, Mary (2010). Wilson, D.R., ed. "A Sermon by Mary Fletcher (née Bosanquet), On Exodus 20, Preached at Madeley in the Parish Vicarage on the Evening of Whitsunday, 8 June 1794". Wesley and Methodist Studies. 2: 115–122. JSTOR 42909787. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Fletcher, Mary (1819). Moore, Henry, ed. The Life of Mrs. Mary Fletcher. Philadelphia: Jonathan Pounder. 
  • Taft, Zachariah; Wesley, John; Vickers, John A. (1992). "Mrs. Mary Fletcher". Biographical Sketches of the Lives and Public Ministry of Various Holy Women : Whose Eminent Usefulness and Successful Labours in the Church of Christ, Have Entitled Them to be Enrolled Among the Great Benefactors of Mankind : in Which are Included Several Letters from the Rev. J. Wesley Never Before Published. Methodist Publishing House. 

External links[edit]