THEIR work changed lives and set new standards in health, design, and social welfare.

Now a missionary and a cancer care pioneer are to become the first women honoured at the National Wallace Monument.

Dubbed the "mother of all peoples" by the community in Calabar, Nigeria, for her work on healthcare and education in the 1880s, Dundee's Mary Slessor will have her likeness installed in the gallery along with that of Dumfries-born Maggie Keswick Jencks, founder of the Maggie's Centres for those affected by cancer.

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Until now, only men have featured in the Hall of Heroes at the Stirling landmark. Created in 1886, it includes busts of figures including King Robert the Bruce and Robert Burns.

The women were chosen from a 14-strong shortlist put out to public vote to better reflect the country's leading figures.

Zillah Jamieson, chair of the charity Stirling District Tourism, which operates the visitor attraction, said: "This has been an incredible campaign, one which has ignited passions and has stimulated an amazing response.

"The level of enthusiasm for women to be given recognition has been truly inspirational and the challenge for us as a self-funding charity has been to raise the funds required to embark on this project, and to now introduce these women into The Hall of Heroes.

"We are proud that we have been able to do this, with the help and the support of the visitors who come to the monument".

Slessor and Keswick Jencks are said to have shown "selflessness and personal commitment to social improvement".

Rev Ian Alexander, secretary of the World Mission Council of the Church of Scotland, said: "We are thrilled and delighted that Mary Slessor has been chosen as one of the first women to be immortalised in the Hall of Heroes.

"Her pioneering work in Calabar, Nigeria, remains an inspiration to this day."

Keswick Jencks lost her own cancer battle in 1995 after designing the first centre in Edinburgh.

Laura Lee, the charity's chief executive, said: "It is quite incredible to think that Maggie has been chosen by the public to be the first Scottish woman alongside Mary Slessor to join the Hall of Heroes.

"All the women on the shortlisted would have been worthy of a place amongst the likes of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott, but perhaps the result reflects how many people are affected by cancer.

"Maggie deserves to be honoured for her vision of a different type of cancer care, but I think she would be surprised to find herself in such illustrious company."


The National:

PROFILE: Mary Slessor

Mary Slessor, Missionary (1848-1915) was the most celebrated Scottish missionary since David Livingstone, who inspired her to a life of service. Determined to overcome the trying circumstances of her youth, and largely self-taught, she combined missionary fervour and a large measure of common sense to work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for native people in Calabar, Nigeria - against a background of prejudice and opposition. Her work spanned healthcare, social welfare and education. Entitled "Mother of all the peoples" in Calabar, she was entirely committed to helping others conquer obstacles in their own lives, at times through unconventional methods. In 1913 the British government recognised her as an Honorary Associate of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem.

PROFILE: Maggie Keswick Jencks

A writer, gardener and designer, Maggie Keswick Jencks (1941-1995), was the co-founder of The Maggie's Centres, and she designed the blueprint for the centres - notable for their architecture and landscape settings. In a caring and patient-oriented environment, they provide practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer, their families and their friends. Now about to number twenty, these centres have spread beyond Scotland to the rest of the UK and abroad. Her concern for others and her determination drove her as a generous donor to many charitable causes, but as an equally persuasive fund-raiser; with her father, she founded the Holywood Trust (south-west Scotland) and the Keswick Foundation (Hong Kong). Her extraordinary creativity led to her book on Chinese Gardens - a classic on the subject - as well as extensive garden and interior design projects.