Morrison, Mary [Morton] (1791-1821)

Missionary in China

Mary Morton was born and brought up in Dublin, Ireland. She accompanied her father, John Morton, a surgeon of the East India Company (EIC), on a business trip to Macao, where they met Robert Morrison of the London Missionary Society (LMS), the first Protestant missionary in China. Morrison and Mary Morton were married in February 1809 and made their home in Macao because no foreign women were allowed in Canton.

Life as a missionary wife was difficult for Morrison because she suffered from poor health and the tropical climate. Moreover, she was often alone in Macao because her husband was away on business for the EIC and the LMS. Her social life with the Western community, which was composed mostly of Catholic Portuguese, was severely restricted, even though she had learned Portuguese. This was evident in 1811 when her infant son, who lived less than a day, had to be buried under the city wall because permision was denied for him to be buried in the Catholic cemetery. In January 1815 Mary Morrison, with her two children, went to England to restore her health, returning to Macao in 1820. The next year, while pregnant, she died of cholera, and as buried in the newly established Protestant cemetary in Macao. Her son John Robert Morrison returned to Malacca to study at the Anglo-Chinese College and later inherited his father’s position in the EIC. He became a Chinese secretary to the superintendent of trade for the Hong Kong government. Her daughter Mary Rebecca Morrison became the second wife of Benjamin Hobson, a medical missionary of the LMS in China.

Timothy Man-kong Wong, “Morrison, Mary,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 473.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


Digital Secondary

Morrison, Eliza. Memoirs of the Life and Labours of Robert Morrison, 2 vols. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1839.


Broomhall, Marshall. Robert Morrison, A Master-Builder. New York: George H. Doran, 1924.

Wylie, A. Memorials of Protestant Missionaries to the Chinese: Giving a List of Their Publications, and Obituary Notices of the Deceased. With Copious Indexes. Taipei: Chéng-Wen Pub. Co, 1967.