In 1822, Marianne Williams, with her missionary husband Henry and their three small children, left England forever. Their new home, in New Zealand's Bay of Islands, was a remote one-house settlement – the Church Missionary Society mission station headquarters. This was nearly twenty years before the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Marianne's only contact with the outside world was in letters home to her family in Nottingham. It is through these letters that her story can be told. At a time when most women of her age and class were enjoying the luxuries of industrial England, Marianne Williams was living among warring Maori tribes with unruly whaling crews across the bay. With her husband often absent, she was nurse, midwife and surrogate missionary in the community, and coped with running the mission station and schools, providing hospitality to visiting European explorers – including Charles Darwin – and tending to her growing family of eleven children. Yet, despite these immense demands, in her letters the bravery and uncomplaining determination of this extraordinary woman shine through.