Mary Strong Clemens

Faithful Pastors Wife

Today is the birthday of the botanist and prolific plant collector Mary Strong Clemens.

When she was 19 years old, she married a minister named Joseph Clemens. Joseph was a chaplain in the United States Army, and he served in the Philippines, and later in France - during World War I.
Mary was a maniacal plant collector, and wherever Joseph was stationed, she would collect plants. A faithful pastor’s wife, sometimes Mary, would offer lessons on biblical scripture or sing hymns in exchange for lodging. The years spent in the Philippines were particularly productive for Mary.
When Joseph retired, he became Mary’s assistant, and they worked together as a team. They had a system worked out; Mary collected the plants, and Joseph processed them - he dried them and then boxed them up for shipping.
Joseph and Mary traveled the world together, spending time in Asia, between the first and second world wars. By 1935, they were in New Guinea. Joseph ate some food that was contaminated by wild boar meat. The food poisoning was too much for his system, and he died on January 21st, 1936.
This past year, the New Zealander citizen scientist, Siobhan Leachman (pronounced “Sha-vonne”), stumbled on a specimen of a tree that Mary had collected six days after her husband died. In the lower left-hand corner of the specimen sheet is a label titled Flora of New Guinea. Mary labeled it M. clemensiae. There, in her own handwriting, Mary wrote:

“It was under this tree that my soul companion for over 40 years of wedded life, bade me farewell for the higher life.”

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May Strong Clemens 1
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