Mary Ann Rogers was born on 14 February 1855 to James and Sophia Foxwell. She had six other siblings and they all lived in Southampton. Little else is noted about her childhood. But in 1871 she left home and went to work as a general servant for Charles Trubbett and his family who just happened to live right next door to Mary’s family home.
She married Richard Rogers on 20 March 1876 in Northam, Southampton. From this union were born two children, Mary Ellen (b.1878) and Frederick Richard (b.1881). Their family home was located in Chantry Road, Southampton. Richard worked as a seaman for London and South Western Railway (LSWR). Four years into their marriage and Mary being six months pregnant with their second child, Richard was swept overboard the SS Honfleur and drowned at sea.
At the time of Richard’s death, it was customary for railway companies to offer employment to the deceased employee’s family members. Pregnant and already with a toddler Mary had no choice but to take the offer. After the birth of Frederick Richard, she went to work almost immediately as a stewardess for LSWR. Which at that time was considered a decent job with a stable income for a widow in her position and also opened the door for better prospects.
Mary’s parents took care of the children as she was at sea for extended periods of time. After being with LSWR for five years she did her job well. She was popular with the passengers because of her cheerful and hospitable personality. Mary had become a senior stewardess by 1899 and was working on the SS Stella that year. The ship left Southampton late on 30 March 1899 being the first daylight service of the season to the Channel Islands. They ran into fog and still running full steam ahead rocks suddenly became visible through the fog but there was no time to stop or alter course. The ship struck at full speed, tearing out the bottom of her hull.
Mary worked calmly and quickly to get women passengers up onto the deck and fitted them with lifebelts. She then assisted the women into the boats, ensuring that they had priority. Seeing a woman without a lifebelt, she removed her own and put it on her, then helped her into a boat. The occupants of the boat called Mary to join them, but she refused, saying that the boat was full and that it would be endangered if she got in. As she turned away the Stella began her final plunge. Mary Rogers’ last reported cry was “Lord, have me” then she vanished with the ship.
In 1908, the committee of the new Liverpool Anglican Cathedral chose twenty-one “noble women” for depiction in stained glass windows. Mary Rogers was included and is depicted in her window alongside Grace Darling and Elizabeth Fry.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13 NKJV)
- Mary Ann Rogers – A True Victorian Heroine: The Stella Memorial, Southampton, Hampshire.
- The Wreck of the Stella.
*The Liverpool Anglican Cathedral in the header.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1735 – The impious Howell Harris changes course, becoming a leading Welsh revivalist.
1858 – Dudley Tyng speaks to a noon rally of five thousand in Philadelphia, taking as his text, “Go now ye that are men and serve the Lord.” He declares that he would rather lose his right arm than fail to deliver God’s message to his listeners. Deeply moved, one thousand men respond to his solemn words. Two weeks later one of his arms is yanked from its socket in an accident, an infection developed, and it had to be amputated. These measures did not save him and in a few days more he died. His last words were “Stand up for Jesus, father, and tell my brethren of the ministry to stand up for Jesus.” This dying exhortation will inspire the hymn “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.”