The trouble with being a religious leader is that your mistakes are promulgated through the centuries, and this is what happened to Gregory the Great. In an eleventh century sermon he made a blunder. Speaking of Mary Magdalene he rolled four women into one: Mary of Magdala; Mary of Bethany [sister of Lazarus], who anointed Jesus before he died; the woman who was a sinner, in Luke 7; and later clerics have thrown in the woman taken in adultery for good measure. It was only in 1969 that the church admitted that these were separate women, but the error still lingers. Another error is the claim that Mary was a converted prostitute. There is no evidence for this.
One of the problems when dealing with biblical documents is that the documents emphasize Christ, and the followers play themselves down. Thus Mary, Jesus' mother, gets some good press, but then seems to take a background role. The apostles are mentioned, but only a few are mentioned much; and the women fade into the background and just get on with living. We can see that this must be so, as the New Testament is Christ-focused, but there are times when we want to know about his followers. So what do we know of Mary's origins?
We know that she came from Magdala, on the Sea of Galilee, a place which means Tower of the Salted Fish. We also know that she had seven devils cast out of her, after which she tagged along with Jesus' apostolic band, where she became a key companion. We do not know what was wrong with her: mental illness, possession, or physical ailment. But we do know that she was one of the wealthy women who backed up Jesus' mission with her money and helped to care for the males. Having wealth like this in her own right would, in a time when women had no rights, indicate that she was a wealthy widow, but we cannot know this.
We do know that she was present at the cross, to keep vigil with Jesus till his death. She watched the burial and on the Sunday morning went early to the tomb. The city gates were closed at night and opened at dawn, so,as she went when it was still dark, we infer that she went very early, just after the first rays of the sun brightened the sky.
The gospels present her as going with a band of women, but John's gospel focuses on her alone. She warns the apostles that the tomb is empty, but she thinks that it has been robbed of the body. Later,when she returns to weep she meets Jesus,but thinks that he is the gardener, until he addresses her by name. She knows him by his voice and she goes to embrace him, but he demurs saying that he has not yet ascended to his Father. All of this indicates that she had an intense, loving relationship with Jesus.
After this she fades from history, for she is mentioned in Acts of the Apostles as being among the early church when the Holy Spirit arrived at Pentecost; and then she is gone from the records. She sought no fame or power, for to Mary love was enough, but she ever goes down in history as Apostle to the Apostles, the only female to be ascribed apostolic rank.