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Biography of Mary Tooth (1778-1843)

Little is known of the life of Mary Tooth before she moved to Madeley as Mary Bosanquet-Fletcher’s companion. Tooth was born in Birmingham on 30 May 1778 and baptized in St Philip’s Parish Church in Birmingham on 14 July the following year. She did not consider either of her parents to be ‘pious’ during her childhood, though her mother ‘tried her and proved to do her good in her latter end,’ answering the prayers of Tooth’s ‘pious grandmother’.
She visited Madeley for the first time in 1795 when she came to work as a teacher and domestic servant in the house of Mrs Mickelwright. When Mrs Mickelwright’s son returned from sea and proposed to Mary Tooth (one of her several suitors), she felt obligated both to decline and to find employment elsewhere, though she had no desire to leave Madeley. To stay as close as possible, she accepted employment in the neighbouring parish of Shifnal with a Mrs Lutton. Tooth experienced a religious conversion in a meeting in ‘Mrs Fletcher’s Room’ (the vicarage tithe barn which had been converted by Mary Fletcher into a preaching room in 1788) in Madeley when Fletcher was preaching on the Minor Prophets. Between 1795 and 1799 she was joined with the Methodists in Birmingham at Cherry Street Chapel during visits to her parent’s home.
On the weekends during which she was not in Birmingham, Tooth attended St Michael’s (the parish church in Madeley) as well as Mrs Fletcher’s meetings before and after the Sunday services, returning to Shifnal on Monday afternoons. It was during this time that Tooth built friendships with a circle of evangelical women leaders in Madeley including Mary Fletcher, Sarah Lawrence, Mrs Yate (a relative of Rev. Nathaniel Gilbert), and Mrs Purton (whose family lived in the Madeley manor house). Tooth moved into the vicarage house next to the Madeley parish church with Mary Fletcher as her companion and help-mate in ministry in 1799. In 1808 Tooth’s sister Rosamond came to live with her in Madeley. From this time on Tooth became a prominent leader in the parish ‘meetings’ held in the various meeting houses established by John and Mary Fletcher, where she preached, led prayer meetings, and worked with children. Tooth contributed to the building of a preaching house after Mary Fletcher’s death in 1815.
Mary Tooth was the last and closest of Mary Fletcher’s live-in companions and confidants and also acted as her executrix. She was very active in Methodist affairs in the Madeley and East Shropshire area in her own right. After Bosanquet-Fletcher’s death in 1815, Tooth continued to correspond widely and was active in promoting the role played by women. Tooth herself was preaching as late as the 1830s and her obituary in the Methodist Magazine states that she was acting as a leader for three classes until a few days before her death on 15 November 1843.
Biography by D.R. Wilson. Source: Methodist Magazine 1843; Manuscript Journal of Mary Tooth, Methodist Archives, JRULM, MAM Fl. 14; Methodist Biographical Index (by Gareth Lloyd).

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