- In 1896, MARY H. RUTNAM left the country of her birth to serve a people of a different race, creed and custom. For 62 years she applied her heart, mind and her medical knowledge with sights and understanding to the problems of the Ceylonese people.
- Her greatest contribution has been the introduction into Ceylon of women’s institutes, known as the Lanka Mahila Samiti, that have done much to alter the status of village women.
- Enhance the self-respect of the less fortunate by showing them practical ways to improve their lot. She helped the more fortunate to recognize their social responsibility and indeed, the privilege to help their fellowmen.
- The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation board of trustees recognizes “her gift of service to the Ceylonese people and the example she has set by her full life of dedication as a private citizen to the needs of others.”
In 1896, MARY H. RUTNAM left the country of her birth to serve a people of a different race, creed and custom. Since then, she has for 62 years applied her heart, her mind and her medical knowledge with insight and understanding to the problems of the Ceylonese people, whom she has made her own.
From her inspiration and leadership, volunteer and government-supported social services in many fields have grown and been sustained. Perhaps her greatest contribution has been the introduction into Ceylon of women’s institutes, known as the Lanka Mahila Samiti, that have done much to alter the status of village women.
Dr. RUTNAM has labored particularly to enhance the self-respect of the less fortunate by showing them practical ways to improve their lot. At the same time, she has helped the more fortunate to recognize that it is their social responsibility and, indeed, their privilege to help their fellowmen.
Her life and activities have been characterized by a spirit of service kindred to that of our late President. He, like her, cared for all people and believed in their dignity and importance.
In electing MARY H. RUTNAM to receive the first Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, the board of trustees recognizes her gift of service to the Ceylonese people and the example she has set by her full life of dedication as a private citizen to the needs of others.
I consider it a great privilege and honor to be chosen as one of the Ramon Magsaysay Awardees and to be able to be present on this memorable occasion.
The ideals for which Ramon Magsaysay, your late President, stands have been a great example and inspiration, not only to his own people but to those of other lands as well.
I greatly appreciate the privilege accorded to me of visiting Manila and meeting his beloved people who are today celebrating his 51st birthday in befitting manner.
I thank the Board of Trustees for the arrangements made for my stay here and the kind hospitality shown to me. I am sure on my return to Colombo I will have much that will be of interest and value to pass on to the people of Ceylon.
My thanks are also due to the Rockefeller family who have been great benefactors to many notable causes. The presence of two of that family here today is a testimony of their great interest in all world-wide efforts for the uplift and benefit of mankind. I feel very proud of this opportunity of meeting them personally.
I conclude by quoting a few lines written long ago but very appropriate for the present occasion:
“The lives of great men all remind us,
We can make our lives sublime
And departing leave behind us,
Footprints on the sands of time.”
Once again I thank you all.
Dr. MARY H. RUTNAM, the former MARY HELEN IRWIN, was born on June 2, 1873 at Elora, Ontario, Canada. Her family later moved to Kincardine, bordering Lake Huron, where she received her education. Later she qualified as a doctor at the Toronto Medical College for Women, and took her postgraduate work in New York.
Dr. IRWIN came to Ceylon in December 1896, “in the days of horse and bullock coaches,” to join the American Medical Mission at Jaffna. In March 1898, she moved to Colombo where she married Samuel Christian Kanagar Rutnam, B.A. (Madras) and M.A. (Princeton), a Tamil Ceylonese whom she had met while in New York. Taking up private practice, she also assisted her husband in his educational and mission work. He was a teacher by profession and later founded Central College in Colombo.
In the following October, the doctor in charge of the newly-opened Lady Havelock Hospital for Women and Children went on sick leave and Dr. RUTNAM was requested by the Medical Department to act for her. Here she performed the first orthopedic surgery in Ceylon and lectured to the first group of women medical students, then in their final year.
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