International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Mary Reed

    Status Other
    Country USA


    Mary Reed was born in Ohio in 1858 (or, some sources state, 1854). The city of Cawnpore was the site of her ministry but, after 8 years, she suffered a physical breakdown and returned home to recuperate. When she recovered, she returned and went to work in the Himalayas. On one journey, she came across a group of 500 people who were affected by leprosy, subsisting by themselves. Burdened for their helplessness, Mary could not forget them.

    After another year of intense ministry, she collapsed and was sent back to her American home. Doctors were perplexed by her illness. What caused the tingling pain in her forefinger and that spot on her face? Mary knew before she had received a definitive diagnosis. She had contracted leprosy. Yet, rather than being horrified, she thanked God for a disease that ordinarily would have aroused reactions of dread and self-pity. She saw it as God's gift, an answer to her pleas that somehow she might be permitted to work among those, similarly affected by the disease, in the Himalayas.

    Only her doctors and a sister knew the truth about her condition. When she returned yet again to India, she insisted that there be no sad farewell, though she realized she might never see her family again. Back in India, Mary went to a leprosy colony where no missionary had gone before. "I have been called by God to come and help you," she told the astonished sufferers. And there she remained. The difficulties were indeed enormous, yet gradually, in Chandag, a hospital was built. For 53 years, she lived and served at Chandag. She was awarded the Kaisar-i-hind gold medal in 1917. She died in Chandag in 1943.

    Published works referring to Mary Reed:

    John Jackson, Mary Reed, Missionary to Lepers. London, 1899.
    E Mackerchar, Mary Reed of Chandag. Mission to Lepers, [1960?], 32pp.
    Alfred Donald Miller, All My Mountains: an Easter Diary of a Visit to M. Reed of Chandag Heights. London [1943].
    'The Leper Mission', The Nursing Record and Hospital World, 20 July 1895, p. 14.
    'The Birthday Honours', The British Journal of Nursing, 9 June, 1917, p. 404.

    Photos of Chandag


    Chandag Leprosy Hospital (later TLM Mary Reed Leprosy Hospital)   After Mary Reed contracted leprosy, she devoted her life to working in the Chandag heights asylum in the Himalayan foothills.
    TLM Canada (later Effect:Hope)  
    TLM International  

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