Legendary Female Progressive Icon -Liberia Celebrates Mary Nema Brownell’s Legacy

The list of Liberian legends and progressives—people who sacrificed their lives, time, energies and resources—for the good of the state is long but dominated by male actors. A cursory glance of it and the history of the struggle for rice and rights and Liberia’s democratization will virtually hardly see females except a harder, deeper look is taken. And when that is done, a few names would emerge and, certainly, the fearless Grebo matriarch and progressive icon and legend, Mary Nema Brownell, would stand out sharply and provocatively. And because of that, since the weekend and up this week, the remnants of Liberia’s progressive struggle, ideologically-mind citizens, friends and relatives have been celebrating her legacy, as The Analyst reports.

A major national and international panel symposium is taking place today, March 14, 2022, as part of efforts by family, well-wishers, admirers of a fallen Liberian female progressive who passed away March 14, 2017, exactly five years ago.

The five panel symposium is organized by the Forum of Liberian Women Elders, an organization organized and launched March 12, 2022 to uphold the progressive legacy of Dr. Mary Nema Brownell who spend much of her a hundred years on planet Earth defending the rights of marginalized people, mainly women and girls, and fighting for Liberia’s democratization.

The Liberian feminist icon died at1:00 a.m. Tuesday, March 14, 2017. She was a Seasoned Educator and Administrator, a venerated stateswoman, a vocal voice of Hope and Inspiration, a Fearless Advocate and a symbol of peace and National Unity.

She will also be remembered as the Dorcas of our Nation and Mother of the Progressives; a Disciplinarian and Mentor, and a patriot of Humility and Integrity.

Other organizers of the event are Liberia Institution for “Growing” Patriotism and the Obaa’s Girls Education Outreach.

The symposium which will be largely virtual due to the COVID-19 restrictions is drawing speakers of international repute from Liberia and abroad.

The President of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, will serve as the Keynote Speaker while the panelists are Sarna Daraba Kaba, Elizabeth, Barbara Green Seyon and Massa Washington and Aisha Oyebode.

Earlier during the weekend, and as part of the celebrating of the legacy of Dr. Brownell, the formal introduction of the “Forum of Liberian Women Elders” took place as well as the opening of “Ma Mary’s Place” located at 50 Ashmun Street. A Candle Light Vigil followed at 8pm on March 12, 2022.

On Sunday, March13, 2022, a Thanksgiving Church Service was held at the St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Camp Johnson Road, followed by a wreath laying ceremony at her grave site in Cinta, Margibi County.

The celebrations will be climaxed today, Monday, March 14, 2022 begging at3:30 pm with a five-panel symposium featuring five distinguished panelists.

Quick Look at Dr. Brownell’s Past

She was born on March 12, 1929, in Cavalla, Maryland County, Liberia and came to Monrovia at age 5 to begin pursuing primary education in 1937 at Suehn Baptist Mission in Bomi County.

When women could not easily be seen in classrooms, Mother Brownell proudly obtained a high school diploma from Liberia College, which later became known as Laboratory High School and Martha Tubman Academy.

Cognizant of the challenges ahead and the need to pursue higher education in order to confront them, Mother Brownell enrolled at the University of Liberia and obtained a BSc. Degree in Primary Education in 1960. Still not satisfied with her educational status, she matriculated at San Francisco State College (now University) in the USA and obtained a MSc. Degree in School Supervision. She reached these enviable heights when many thought that a woman could not.

She began pursuing her dream as a teacher at St. Patrick’s School, and later as an administrator of the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS) and the Catholic School System. She also served as President of the University of Liberia Alumni Association (ULAA).

Due to her outstanding performance as a seasoned administrator and a renowned educator, Dr. Brownell became Principal of Boatswain School on Jamaica Road, and of Bong Mines School in Bong County.

Additionally, and in pursuit of social justice, equality, freedom and peace, Mother Brownell birthed and served as National Chairperson of the Liberia Women’s Initiative (LWI), an organization established to protect women’s rights and empower them.

She became Commissioner of the National Elections Commissions. Besides her active involvement with peace initiatives locally, Dr. Brownell served as Chairperson of the Universal Peace Federation and became a Global Peace Ambassador.

As a founding member of the Mano River Women Peace Network (MARWOPNET), a regional organization of women in Mano River countries committed to promoting peace, Dr. Brownell was a leading voice of peace, and her genuine efforts led, in 2003, to the end of a prolonged 14-year civil crisis in Liberia.

She led a “Stay Home” Action for Disarmament on January 10, 1997, alongside Archbishop Michael K. Francis, Sheikh Kafuma Konneh, Bishop Arthur F. Kulah, Archbishop George D. Brown, Archbishop William Nah Dixon, and Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh.

She and other women of MARWOPNET were successful in bringing together three Heads of State to negotiate a peace deal and put an end to bloodletting and mayhem across Liberia. This negotiation led to the 2003 Comprehensive Peace Accord in Accra, Ghana.

Throughout her lifetime, Dr. Brownell remained passionate about promoting women’s rights and ensuring they have a voice in whatever decision affects them directly or indirectly. Her vocal stance on issues inspired the hope, confidence and self-worth of thousands of women across Liberia, Africa and the World.

Her persistent opposition to the primitive belief that women were never created to lead, but to always be led by their male counterparts, ignited an evolution of CHANGE and infused a new set of DYNAMICS into women’s advocacy. To Mother Brownell, this antiquated belief was not only flawed, but had no genuine basis especially so when women too were created in God’s image and endowed with great talents. She led an exemplary struggle for women to have a space in politics and decision-making in Liberia.

Mother Brownell will forever remain an emblem of feminism and a symbol of heroism for generations yet unborn. The accuracy of our history would be questioned if an entire chapter or more is not apportioned to vividly account for Mother Mary Brownell’s outstanding legacy.

This heroine was an enthusiastic seeker of knowledge, a goal-getter and an enterprising exemplar who never allowed her condition as a woman to hinder her dream, that dream being to educate, mentor and advocate for those in need, especially vulnerable women and girls.

Oldma Brownell was never afraid to speak out, especially against the ills of society. On one occasion, she lashed out at President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for being too sympathetic with corrupt officials in her Government.

While appearing before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in August 2008, and serving as Commencement Speaker at the University of Liberia’s Convocation in December 2013, this vocal and iconic heroine made a brilliant case through dozens of captivating recommendations in an effort to guarantee peace, prosperity and national unity. The extent of her boldness and audacity was unmatched.

It reawakened the spirit and revived the dying hope of women to venture into areas of leadership, politics, science, business and academia. Mother Brownell tirelessly worked towards, and lived to see the selection of the first Interim Chairwoman (Ruth Sando Perry) of the Council of State on September 3, 1996; and the first female President (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) of Liberia inaugurated on January 16, 2006.

Today, we have an Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) and a Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. Today, women are political leaders, standard bearers and vice standards of political parties. They now have the right to vote and be voted for. Today, Liberian women are ministers, managing directors, business leaders, heads of NGOs and INGOs. Others are professors, administrators and specialists in a variety of fields. Today, they are free to speak out on radios and televisions and sit at the table to decide their own destiny.

The home of Mother Brownell was a safe haven for revolutionaries and progressive forces of SUP, PAL, SISSUKU and MOJA. Progressive militants and ideologues who fought against elitism and one-party system under the moribund True Whig Party ran to her home for economic and political rescue. She was always benevolent to them as a mother, an advisor and activist. She firmly believed that equality and justice for all was the basis of a peaceful and prosperous nation.

When Ebola was ravaging across the land in 2014, Dr. Brownell again stood up with a group of patriotic volunteers to combat this deadly virus through an organization she formed, Servants of Africa Fighting Ebola – SAFE.

These are fulfillments Mother Brownell stood up and fought for all throughout her lifetime. The barrier of low self-esteem was broken. She lived to fulfill this mission. This is why we are indebted to her. Her legacy deserves to be celebrated by all Liberians, especially women.

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