Laurence Sterne tells us that it is not facts that give us high blood pressure, but what we make of them. If only it were true. This monograph is an attempt to sieve out what facts there are, if indeed there are any, about Mary Pigot, who died forgotten in 1922 but whose brief notoriety flared and died in 1883. It starts with the question, who was this woman? and it ends sadder and wiser but without an answer.
One or two good accounts have been written of Miss Pigot's role in the Calcutta Mission Scandal of 1883, which marked the end of her career, but the only details of what her career consisted of are on pages 136 to 140 of Lesley Macdonald's Unique and Glorious Mission, Edinburgh 2000, in chapter 5 of Rosemary Seton's Western Daughters in Eastern Lands, Santa Barbara 2013, and the paper "Close encounters, racial tensions" in Judith Becker's European Missions in Contact Zones, Göttingen 2015. The ambition here is to pull together what evidence there is for her life and work, with as little attention to the events of 1883 as can reasonably be paid. Scandals raise the blood pressure but are not especially informative.
There is almost certainly more material to be got about Miss Pigot, in Calcutta, Yale, Glasgow and Edinburgh: as always, this compilation is partial and preliminary. There is too little material surviving to write biography, or any kind of history. What we do here is bring the very sketchy sources together and try, in as disinterested a way as we can manage, to assess them. It does not, you should be warned, make for easy reading.
We hope to add to the Addenda at some point a statement on Brahmo ambitions in the field of female education. There are talks and speeches printed in the Calcutta press of the 1860s, 70s and 80s which may provide a suitable text.
This is the place where, in a perfect world, we would put her photograph, or a high-quality etching taken from a photograph, to illustrate the woman we are in pursuit of. If we ever find one . . .
The book (177 pages, PDF, 1.7 MB) leaves our server free of malware, but beware of what can happen between us and you!
27 January 2021.