How One Person Could Give So Much To So Many

the-salvation-army-maryBy the time Mary Ashworth died at the age of 85 in 2009, she had collected many honours.

These included three Honorary Doctorates and the TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) World Award for outstanding service to the profession. In addition, the University of British Columbia (UBC) has established the Dr. Mary Ashworth Memorial Graduate Scholarship in Education, which pays tribute to Mary’s internationally renowned legacy.

Working from UBC, Mary also pioneered methods for teaching English as a second language.

Through her seven books and nearly one hundred papers, articles and keynote addresses, Mary championed tolerance and diversity in Canada’s social and educational systems. She influenced public language policy and devised effective language and literacy teaching techniques for immigrants to any country.

Perhaps Mary would not have broken this ground had she not received that caring hand of support from the Salvation Army, which greeted her on Canada’s shores when she arrived as an immigrant herself.

She came from England where she served in the Land Army and the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. After the war, Mary was denied physiotherapy training because, at 23, she was deemed to be too old. Frustrated, she worked as a secretary for a few years and then decided to travel. She landed in Halifax with little money and no clear idea of what she would do next.

She received three days of free accommodation and valuable counseling from The Salvation Army. This kindness was her springboard.

Mary was welcomed into the Canadian education system, including UBC, first as a mature student, then as a teacher working tirelessly to improve immigrants’ right to receive an education.

She never forgot The Salvation Army’s compassion. It was her favourite charity for 60 years. Upon her death, she left a generous bequest to The Army because, as her sister, Margaret Spencer, put it, “The Salvation Army was there for Mary at the very beginning.”

When her home country of England put roadblocks in Mary Ashworth’s pathway to education, The Salvation Army welcomed her as a new Canadian immigrant and helped her open doors.