Christina Forsyth was a missionary of the United Presbyterian (later United Free) Church of Scotland to the Mfengu people of South Africa. Born in Glasgow, she early decided on a missionary career but because of various family demands was not free to serve until 1878 when she went to Paterson in the eastern Cape Colony as an unpaid missionary.
In 1881 she returned to Scotland where, in 1884, she married a Mr. Forsyth who was drowned a year later. Christina Forsyth then again became an unpaid missionary in South Africa. She lived in a traditional house among the Mfengu of the Xolobe Valley, who had long resisted any advance by missionaries. She got to know every family well through constant visits, which she continued for 30 years despite many rebuffs and even threats of violence. Slowly but surely she won the community over to Christianity simply by her presence among them. She took no furloughs and rarely left the valley until ill health and advanced age forced her retirement in 1916. The Mfengu sent a delegation to beg her to die among them, since “you are not white but one of us.” This she wanted to do, but the mission authorities and European friends would not allow it, and she returned to Scotland.
Andrew C. Ross
The only biography of Christina Forsyth is an unsatisfactory one by W. P. Livingstone with whom she refused to cooperate, Christina Forsyth of Fingoland: The Story of the Loneliest Woman in Africa (1919). The book contains ample evidence to counter the negative title. Archives of the Foreign Mission Committee of the United Free Church of Scotland, in the National Library of Scotland, contain material on Forsyth.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.