THROUGH correspondence Miss MacKellar had come
into relationship with the officers of The
Women's Foreign Missionary Society. At the
invitation of the Secretary, Mrs. Harvie, she attended the annual meeting
in London in 1885, and the W.F.M. Society soon adopted her as their own,
and helped her financially during her High School course.
In the spring of 1886 she first met the Foreign Mission Committee of the
Presbyterian Church, when at the same time Dr. Marion Oliver was accepted
as a missionary for India.
As there was urgent need of medical women for India, the ladies of the
Board had suggested that Miss MacKellar should take a medical course, and
they offered to become responsible for her expenses. At this time Miss
MacKellar had not been medically examined, but any one seeing her rosy
cheeks and her energetic movements would have said she needed no physical
She became a great favorite with the Board, and at one of the annual
meetings Mrs. Gordon (mother of Ralph Connor) came up to her, and putting
a hand on each shoulder and looking into the earnest eyes of the young
student, said "My dear, you must pray to be kept humble, for you have
become a public pet in the church."
Thus at the opening of the College years in 1886 we find Margaret
MacKellar's name on the list of those who registered as students of
medicine at Queen's University, Kingston, and so a new stage in her
preparation commenced. The following years were busy ones. In addition to
her college work, the young student entered heartily into the different
activities and pursuits of college life. In her first year at Queen's, the
Student Volunteer Movement was first organized, and Miss MacKellar became
a member. In her second year the number of volunteers was thirty-five,
four of whom were women. A hundred per cent. of the women carried out
their purpose of being missionaries, but only about thirty-three per cent.
of the men. In her second year the Students' Y.W.C.A.
was also organized and Margaret MacKellar was chosen President. Always
eager to help the work of missions, she started a snow ball scheme for the
Women's Hospital at Indore, Central India, and as a result handed the
treasurer seven hundred and fifty dollars.
Her summer months, too, were filled with work. Two or
three of the doctors in Ingersoll invited her to visit certain of their
patients with them. Another woman student was in Ingersoll one summer
studying to pass her matriculation examination. A relative of the
MacKellar family called Uncle Archie humorously remarked of the two
would-be doctors: "Well, Maggie, the F.M.C. has shown great wisdom in
choosing you two." "Why?" "You are both so homely that nobody would ever
want to marry you, and you will both be so old when you get through that
even the cannibals will not want to eat you!"
At one time during her course, Miss MacKellar was asked
to prepare and read a paper on Medical Missions at the annual meeting of
the W. F. M. S. Owing to an examination being held at that time she was
unable to be present at the meeting, but her paper was read by Mrs. G. H.
Robinson, who recently retired from the W.M.S. Board. The address was
afterwards printed and copied by an American paper, a copy of which fell
into the hands of Thomas MacKellar of Germantown (Philadelphia, Pa.). He
became interested in the young woman who bore his name, and who intended
to become a missionary. He gave her a volume of his poems, one of which, a
hymn found in many collections, has even since been a special favorite of
"All unseen the Master walketh,
By the toiling
The first of several gifts of money he sent her was
expended in London on lessons in riding, an accomplishment she had been
advised to acquire before going to the mission field. She had already had
some lessons in Ingersoll, where she arranged with the proprietor of a
livery stable for the use of a horse between five and six in the morning.
The owner himself gave her lessons, and when she asked for his bill, he
said he wanted her to take his help and the use of his horse as a
contribution to her mission work.
We may here give the story of an answer to prayer, an
account of which Miss MacKellar wrote to the Guild Gazette. She had seen
that Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Bible, in six volumes, had been
offered by the "Missionary Review of the World" for twelve dollars, and
she desired to have the set. She began to pray for it, and from the first
had the assurance that her prayer would be answered. The arrangement was
that two dollars were to be paid each month. During the Christmas holidays
she was praying earnestly for two dollars for the first volume. She was
called to address a missionary meeting, and after it was over some one
gave her a donation towards the special scheme she was pleading for—the
Indore Hospital—and then handed her a two-dollar bill, saying, "Miss
MacKellar, I should like you to accept this for yourself." When the
circumstances were related, it was hard to tell which felt more joy, the
giver or the receiver. In February word came from the publishers that the
six volumes could be had for ten dollars and a half, paid before May 20th.
Miss MacKellar said to herself, "I might as well pray that the whole sum
be given by that time." So that night she prayed for the necessary amount.
Next day a friend gave her two dollars, saying she had many times thought
of giving it, but had been afraid of offending her. That morning she had
felt impelled to come with it. She was told her gift was an answer to
prayer. These instances were told to an Arts student to convince her that
God hears and answers prayer. When she went to bid this student good-bye,
the latter handed her two dollars, saying it was for another volume of
Matthew Henry's Commentary. Three dollars more was saved from a board
bill, as she went on a visit for a week. Arrangements were made to board
with a friend in Toronto for a month at a lower rate than in Kingston, and
the difference would just make up the amount required. But when she went
to pay her board bill, the friend refused to take anything. Miss MacKellar
wrote: "She said she had stated a price because she knew I would not come
if she had said it would be nothing. The Master Himself knows how deeply
my heart was touched as I told my friend of His faithfulness to me, His
unworthy child, and as I told her all about the books, and said, 'See how
God answers prayer—I was praying for ten dollars and a half, and He gave
The Commentary was afterwards passed on to an Indian
Professor in Indore College.
Many other incidents of answered prayer might be given.
Indeed Miss MacKellar's whole life from the time of her conversion was a
record of answered prayer.
Her circumstances after giving up her regular
employment to go back to school led her to cast herself upon God: she
looked to Him for the supply of every need, temporal and spiritual. He did
not disappoint her. Her devotion to Christ; the completeness of her
surrender; the singleness of her aim, and her determined efforts to
prepare herself for her chosen work, touched many hearts, and when people
listened to the story of the great need that had called her, and of how
God had led her on, they were inspired to give her a helping hand.
Throughout her college course Miss MacKellar did not go
away for her holidays at Christmas, but spent the time in reviewing her
work. During one of these vacations she was asked to address a meeting on
missions at a place in the country. She had not her usual written address
on hand, as a cousin had borrowed it from her to read at a meeting.
She sent for it, but it failed to reach her in time for
her meeting. What was she to do? She felt that the time had come for her
to cast herself wholly on God for help. There came to her mind as a
message from God: "Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I
shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not
afraid of their faces. for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the
Lord." She was driven from the station directly to the place of meeting,
and had not even time for quiet thought. But her subject had been well
prepared. She was familiar with it, and had great freedom in speaking.
From that time she never used a manuscript and seldom a note of any kind.
During her college course she did good solid work. As
her work was to be among women and children, it is gratifying to know that
she took a high stand, she and another student being tied equal for second
place in the department of midwifery and women's diseases. She also passed
successfully the Ontario Council's examinations, a stiff test; and at the
close of her college course represented her class as valedictorian.
Dr. O'Hara and Dr. Agnes Turnbull were two of Dr.
MacKellar's college friends at Kingston, and they, too, have given life
service to India. In college the three were known affectionately as Hario,
Turnio, and Dr. MacKellar, because of her small proportions, as Tinio.