South African independent teacher, mission advocate, and evangelist.
Born and raised in a Dutch family in the Cape Colony, Smith (Machtilt Schmidt, in Dutch; Magtildt Schmidt in Afrikaans) was an extraordinary woman. Twice widowed, she saw all but one of her children die young. She was a regular churchgoer, but it was H. van Lier who guided her through an evangelical conversion. At that time no missionary society was active in the Cape, and the local church was anything but missionary. Almost single-handedly she began to preach to and teach the slaves, as well as to stimulate more Christian concern on their behalf among her fellow whites. She was delighted when J. Van der Kemp arrived in the Cape with the pioneer party of the London Missionary Society (LMS). From then on her home in the city became a home away from home for all missionaries arriving in South Africa. She helped Van der Kemp found the South African Missionary Society, and in 1806, when Van der Kemp was confined to Cape Town by the colonial authorities, she took over as superintendent of the LMS station with its attendant villages at Bethelsdorp and remained in charge for two years. She founded a number of benevolent associations, the most important of which was the Cape Ladies Society for the Relief of the Poor.
Andrew G. Ross
John Philip, A Memorial of Mrs. Matilda Smith (1824).
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.