Mary Maud Page was the second daughter of Nathaniel Page, JP of Croydon, [and Emily Rosa Full] and was born on 21 September 1867 in London, where she lived till she came out to South Africa. She received her education at private schools in England, followed by a year in Paris at a finishing school. Later, she spent six happy months at Grasse in the south of France, and learnt to converse easily in French.
‘Dogged by ill-health from early childhood, Mary Page’s whole life was a brave struggle… Anyone less imbued with a deep and lasting love of nature would have become saddened and would have given up.’
‘Dogged by ill-health from early childhood, Mary Page’s whole life was a brave struggle, and in spite of many obstacles she had to overcome, she fought on till the end with indomitable courage. Anyone less imbued with a deep and lasting love of nature would have become saddened and would have given up. But she was comforted, restored, and inspired by her love, and this keen delight in the beauty of her surroundings, and the glorious sunshine, coupled with a never-failing sense of humour, bore her victoriously through the most painful periods of her life. Who can forget the merry twinkle of her blue eyes and the ready wit that refreshed us at every turn. She made friends and was beloved wherever she went.
‘She learnt Braille in order to help a blind friend, for whose use she translated many books.’
The record of her activities is extraordinary. She worked at the School of Art (Caldrons) until her eyesight failed and she was obliged to give it up. Then she took a course in wood-carving, learnt to work with metals and enamels, and excelled in various kinds of needlework, embroidery and lace-making. She learnt Braille in order to help a blind friend, for whose use she translated many books. During the three years of her mayoralty of Croydon – the time of the Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria and the accession of King Edward – she did her full share of the duties, which fell to so prominent a family.
‘In Basutoland [Lesotho], she started collecting and painting plants. She also inspired and helped a friend to form a teaching herbarium for the school at Morija’
In July 1911, soon after her father’s death, Mary Page sailed for South Africa. Her health [rheumatism] had become worse and after a serious operation it was hoped that a change to a warm climate would benefit her more than anything else. She first stayed at Dealesville in the Orange Free State [where she bathed in the mineral springs]. Early in 1912, she moved to Bloemfontein. In August 1912, she spent three months at Palapye, Bechuanaland Protectorate [now Botswana], and later visited Pretoria [Tshwane] and Southern Rhodesia [now Zimbabwe], and also Basutoland [now Lesotho], which she liked so well that she returned to it several times. [In Basutoland, she started collecting and painting plants. She also inspired and helped a friend of hers, Mrs Beaumont, to form a teaching herbarium for the school at Morija (site of a French Protestant mission and education centre in Lesotho, founded in 1833).]
‘In October, she spent three months with Mrs Bolus, and she learnt to discern the minute differences between the various species. Her enthusiasm was unbounded. This was the beginning of her connection with the Bolus Herbarium.’
In January 1915, while she was spending a few weeks in the Cape Peninsula, Mrs L Bolus met her for the first time and was at once struck with the beauty of the flower paintings she showed her. Mary Page had then not yet done any botanical drawing, but with her usual enterprising spirit she was quite prepared to do her best. In October, she spent three months with Mrs Bolus, and she learnt to discern the minute differences between the various species. Her enthusiasm was unbounded. This was the beginning of her connection with the Bolus Herbarium, which lasted till her death [on 8 February 1925].
She made considerably more than 2 000 drawings of that most important South African genus, the Mesembryanthema; these constitute an invaluable contribution to our knowledge of that difficult group. Besides these, there were some 30 drawings for orchids and about 100 of other plants of the Cape Peninsula, and also many sketches of various other plants, especially in the family Iridaceae. It is indeed a splendid legacy and will immortalize her name in the annals of South African botany. (Done according to the obituary of Dr L Bolus.)’ – Portrait and biography from Herre, H. The genera of the Mesembryanthemaceae. Tafelberg, Cape Town: 1971, pp. 57–59, with a few additional points from the Biographical Database of Southern African Science
‘Beatrice Orchard Carter was born in King William’s Town in 1889 and was educated there and in East London. She received her first lessons in art in Queenstown, and later she attended the Art School at Cape Town. During and after her student days, she worked for Dr DJ Wood, the oculist, making drawings for his ophthalmic work. In 1926, she was appointed as artist to the Bolus Herbarium, where she worked until her death in 1939. Her death was a great loss to the Bolus Herbarium, as no successor was appointed and much of the work she began remained unfinished.
‘She came to the Stellenbosch Botanical Garden to investigate the flowering Mesembryanthema, which I had collected on various trips to Namaqualand, and I well remember her wit and kindness.’
‘Prof RH Compton, at the time the Director of the National Botanic Gardens at Kirstenbosch, paid her the following tribute in the Journal of the Botanical Society of South Africa, Part XXV, p. 4, 1939: “It is with great regret that we record the death of Miss Beatrice O Carter in November 1939. Miss Carter had been, for many years, on the staff of the Bolus Herbarium, where she devoted herself especially to recording with her skilful pen and brush the details of form and structure of the Mesembryanthemaceae in connection with Dr L Bolus’ comprehensive studies of this vast group… I knew her too, during the days when she and other members of the staff of the Bolus Herbarium came to the Stellenbosch Botanical Garden to investigate the flowering Mesembryanthema, which I had collected on various trips to Namaqualand, and I well remember her wit and kindness.’ – Portrait and biography from Herre, H. The genera of the Mesembryanthemaceae. Tafelberg, Cape Town: 1971, pp. 58–59.