Mother Mary Brownell at 86: What Are We Remembering of Her?

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Business philosopher, Kevin Kruse said, “Life is about making an impact, not making an income.”

It is predicated upon this philosophy that when the name Mary Brownell sounds in their ears, former Chief Justice Henry Reed Cooper, former Central Bank Governor Elias  Seleeby, banker C.TO. King, and many other prominent Liberians, recall their early school days, when they often shouted out, “Teacher Mary! Teacher Mary!”

When women in close age range with her hear the name, they are quickly reminded of her bold, forthright approach to public issues, and the popular name, Mary B spills out. 

Mother Brownell could have no other inscription on her comfortable jeep’s license plate besides “Mary B. 3.”

Residents of Brewerville,  outside Monrovia upon hearing the name without any comment following, will tremble because the bearer of that name is the one who initiated a school built in that part of Montserrado to provide free education to children of impoverished parents.

Politicians also remember the name Mary Brownell as one who worked for the National Elections Commission (NEC) and left with a clean record.

Parents, on the other hand, will sit and wish that they had been as successful as she in raising her children, including the celebrated Liberian musician and social activist, Miatta Fahnbulleh, and her brother, Dr. H. Boimah Fahnbulleh, Jr.

Miatta says Mother B’s glittering (impressive) record of achievements remains in the life of her children and those of their generation for whom Ma Mary Brownell is indeed an inspirational figure in Liberian history.

Her fellow parishioners of St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Camp Johnson Road, Monrovia, upon hearing the name, often praise God for giving them such a mother who motivates them when they are depressed.

Mother Brownell was born 86 years ago today March 12, 1929, in Cavalla, Maryland County.  At age five, she was brought to Monrovia to begin her education.

 Her educational sojourn began at the Suehn Baptist Mission in the then Bomi Territory, (now Bomi County) in 1937 when women were not yet in the mainstream of education. Following the completion of her primary education, she enrolled at the high school division of Liberia College known subsequently as Laboratory High School and Martha Tubman Academy, where she obtained her high school diploma.

With a passion for teaching, she pursued studies in Education and first obtained a Bachelor’s degree from Teacher’s College, University of Liberia, and later a Master’s from San Francisco State College (now University).  She became a passionate and lifelong teacher.  She started at the St. Patricks School and later became principal of the Botswain School.

She also served as an administrator in the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS), the Catholic School System and the Bong Mines School in Bong County.

Mother Brownell is now retired and is not too often seen in public gatherings. 

One of the major events Mother Brownell attended in recent years was the University of Liberia’s commencement convocation in December, 2013, where she served as Commencement Speaker.

In spite of her age, Mother Mary Brownell’s intellect and voice are still sharp—so sharp that she can perform even the teaching role.

Comparing her youthful days to that of today’s generation, she wonders what will become of young people of today and Liberia in general considering the poor orientation of today’s youth.

“There are too many differences between your days and my days,” she told a duo of Daily Observer reporters.  “During our days, children, especially girls, could not stay outdoors after 6 p.m., and when any parent of a different family saw a neighbor’s child outside after 6 p.m., that parent would discipline the child and the child would not be a fool enough to complain to his or her parents, lest he or she receive double punishment.” 

“In our days no single parent disciplined or trained a child, but parents did it collectively.  No different parent will do it for another person’s child today because either the child insults that person or his/her parents take that person to court,” she said.

Mother Brownell is of the strongest view that because female children at early ages are used as bread winners and are allowed to be exposed to the streets, cases of rape as well as unwanted pregnancy continue to rise as do children without responsible fathers, found daily on the streets.

These circumstances, she said, will also increase poverty and crime in the country.

She frowned at gender advocacy groups, including the Ministry of Gender and Child Protection, for doing little to initiate programs that will address the plight of street girls, noting, “They (advocacy groups) are only there to advocate for funds that will not be used to address the purposes for which they are intended.”

Mother Brownell said her 86th birth anniversary will, for personal reasons, not be elaborately celebrated.

Nevertheless, the invitation is still extended to friends, acquaintances, loved ones and well wishers to pass by and share the affection and joy of the day.

For all that Mother Mary Brownell is remembered for in the Liberian society, all who have felt her impact, including the owner of this intellectual property, are eager to wish her a Happy 86th Birthday and 50 more robust years!

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