Chapter 18 » 18.14

Testimony concerning Mary Ann Stokeley (1869?–1941):

Mary Ann Stokeley was associated with Ratcliff Meeting from her earliest years. Born and bred in Stepney, within a stone’s throw of the old Ratcliff Meeting House in Brook Street (now Cable Street), she first attended the Sunday School at the age of four, and thereafter made her spiritual home with Friends. Very short in stature and of comparatively frail physique, she knew poverty at first hand, and was never able to earn an adequate wage. Yet despite her physical and educational disadvantages, for many years she was responsible for a Sunday School class of rowdy Stepney girls, to whom she gave of her best.

Mary Stokeley did not apply for membership of our Society until she reached middle life, after many years as an attender. Her attendance at meeting for worship was regular and punctual and she took an interest in all the concerns of her preparative and monthly meetings. Very conscious of her own limitations, her part was a silent one, but she was amazingly faithful to the tiny meeting to which she belonged. Our Friend was not a ‘oncer’ – for many years she was in the meeting house morning, afternoon and evening every first-day. It was indeed the centre of her life.

During the air raids in the last war she was repeatedly pressed to leave the district, but she preferred to share the danger with her own kith and kin, and there can be no doubt that the anxiety of the time shortened her life. Ratcliff Meeting was reduced to one or two, yet up to her last illness she was in her place every first-day morning with unfailing regularity. Faithfulness was indeed the keynote of her life, and an example to us all.

That our Friend should, out of her poverty, have left us a substantial legacy is truly humbling. She lived in one room, enjoyed none of the refinements which most of us consider essential for a reasonable life, and might well have spent the money on comforts in her last years. But she preferred to leave her money to the religious fellowship of which she was so humble and unobtrusive a member.

Ratcliff & Barking Monthly Meeting, 1955

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