Mary Livingstone (née Moffat)

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Mary Moffat sitting under an almond tree at Kuruman with her parents Robert and Mary Moffat. (National Portrait Gallery, London)

Mary Livingstone (née Moffat; 12 April 1821 – 27 April 1862) was the wife of the Scottish Congregationalist missionary David Livingstone.[1][2][3]

Her father, Robert Moffat, was a Scottish Congregationalist missionary who worked among the Bechuana people at Kuruman.[4]


Mary Moffat was the first of ten children born to Robert Moffat, a Scottish missionary and his wife Mary (née Smith 1795–1870). Mary was born in Griquatown, about 93 miles north of Kimberley. From 1839 to 1843 she lived in Britain with her parents. When the family returned to South Africa, she taught in the school at Kuruman where she met David Livingstone.

She married Livingstone in January 1845, despite her mother's disapproval. The couple lived initially in Kolobeng, North West Province. She accompanied Livingstone on his two journeys across the Kalahari desert in 1849 and 1850. Two of her six children were born during these treks and were delivered by her husband. She did not go on Livingstone's first expedition to the Zambezi, 1853–1856, because she lived in Britain for four years for the sake of the children's education. In 1852 Mary returned to Scotland with her 4 children but staying with relatives proved difficult. After several moves she eventually moved to Kendal where she lived with Charles and Susanna Brathwwaite who were evangelical Quakers and supporters of the London Missionary Society. Dr Livingstone and Mary's parents were missionaries of this society. When Livingstone returned to England a national hero he stayed with the Braithwaites on a number of occasions.[citation needed] Livingstone joined her in Britain from 1856 to 1858. In 1858 she returned to Africa to accompany Livingstone on the official "Zambezi Expedition" but became pregnant again and left the expedition to go to her parents' home in Kuruman for the birth of the new child.[citation needed]

The gravestone of Mary Livingstone in Chupanga. The inscription reads:
Here repose the mortal remains of Mary Moffat, the beloved wife of Doctor Livingstone, in humble hope of a joyful resurrection by our saviour Jesus Christ.
She died in Shupanga House, 27 April 1862, aged 41 years.


Returning to Africa she met Livingstone at the mouth of the Zambezi, but fell ill from malaria in the camp at Shupanga and died there 3 months later on 27 April 1862.[5]


  1. ^ Livingstone online. Profile of Mary Livingstone, née Moffat Archived 16 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Julie Davidson, Looking for Mrs. Livingstone, ISBN 0715209647, 2012
  3. ^ Book of the Week: - Looking for Mrs Livingstone, BBC Radio 4, broadcast at 09:45 on 10–14 December 2012
  4. ^ "Mary Livingstone: in the footsteps of the other explorer" by Julie Davidson, Daily Telegraph, 18 September 2012; accessed 30 March 2014.
  5. ^ Pettitt, Clara (14 March 2013). Dr Livingstone I Presume: Missionaries, Journalists, Explorers and Empire. Profile Books. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-847-65095-5. 

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