Singapore says goodbye to social work pioneer Mrs Jean Marshall who died at her home on Monday (29 March) afternoon at the age of 94.
Mrs Marshall, who was married to the late former Chief Minister David Marshall, leaves behind four children, aged 52 to 60, and six grandchildren.
She was born in Orpington, England in 1926.
Mrs Marshall, born Jean Mary Gray, had come to Singapore back in 1953 in response to a Red Cross advertisement for field officers.
She went on to become a medical social worker, and later gained citizenship in 1960. A year later, she married Mr Marshall who was a lawyer turned politician. He had served as Singapore’s first Chief Minister from 1955 to 1956.
Mrs Marshall, who read sociology and economics at the London School of Economics, was introduced to her would-be husband at a university convocation. She then became a regular guest at his home for Sunday lunches.
After getting marriage, Mrs Marshall took a step back from full-time paid work, spending her time volunteering, raising her children, and becoming a strong support for her husband. Mr Marshall was appointed as an ambassador in 1978. He died at the age of 87 on 2 December 1995.
In 2016 when Mrs Marshall was asked why she chose to stay in Singapore after her husband’s death, she responded: “I just assumed I’d stay; it never occurred to me to relocate to England. Of course, my ethnicity is permanent. But after 60 years, I identify with Singapore. It is possible, though, to think of more than one place as home.”
Following the report of her death, the Workers’ Party (WP) expressed its condolences to Mrs Marshall’s family, and acknowledged her as a pioneer in the field of medical social work in Singapore, as well as her contributions to the Red Cross and the Singapore Children’s Society’s convalescent home.
“While we in The Workers’ Party mourn Mrs Marshall’s passing, we are reminded of the contributions of her generation and particularly those of the women, who are often forgotten. What we have today would not have been possible without their sacrifices,” the party noted in a statement on Facebook on Tuesday (30 March).
“We hope Mrs Jean Marshall’s example and that of her husband Mr David Marshall will inspire those working for the greater good of Singapore society today in both the civil society and political spheres.”
According to a report by The Straits Times who spoke to Mrs Marshall’s youngest son, Jonathan, she had a fall last December and has been confined to bed since early February.
The past six weeks of her life brought “a lot of physical pain”, said Dr Marshall, noting that mobility had become an issue.
“She felt that the time had come… and that she had lived a good life, a long life. She asked me to be happy for her when she goes,” he added, stressing that this was a drastic change for his mother who used to do 20 minute daily swims before her fall.
“It’s been emotionally very difficult to see my mother in pain. It’s a mixture of sadness and grief to see her go, but also peace knowing that she is no longer in pain,” said Dr Marshall.
When asked about her birthday which is coming up in two weeks—she would’ve turned 95—Dr Marshall said that they family had been so focused on her health that the topic of a birthday celebration hadn’t really come up.
“If we had a birthday party, it would probably be a simple thing with family and friends.”