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Missionary Women

Missionary Women: Gender, Professionalism and the Victorian Idea of Christian Mission

Rhonda Anne Semple
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 303
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  • Book Info
    Missionary Women
    Book Description:

    This is the first comprehensive study of the role of gender in British Protestant missionary expansion into China and India during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Focusing on the experiences of wives and daughters, female missionaries, educators and medical staff associated with the London Missionary Society, the China Inland Mission and the various Scottish Presbyterian Mission Societies, it compares and contrasts gender relations within different British Protestant missions in cross-cultural settings. Drawing on extensive published and archival materials, this study examines how gender, race, class, nationality and theology shaped the polity of Protestant missions and Christian interaction with native peoples. Rather than providing a romantic portrayal of fulfilled professional freedom, this work argues that women's labor in Christian missions, as in the secular British Empire and domestic society, remained under-valued both in terms of remuneration and administrative advancement, until well into the twentieth century. Rich in details and full of insights, this work not only presents the first comparative treatment of gender relations in British Christian missionary movements, but also contributes to an understanding of the importance of gender more broadly in the high imperial age. RHONDA A. SEMPLE is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Northern British Columbia, Canada.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-124-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. List of abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  7. 1 ‘Under the influence of wise and devoted and spiritually minded colleagues’
    (pp. 1-16)

    Writing to the Foreign Secretary of the London Missionary Society in 1884, John Hewlett, one of the senior male missionaries in the United Provinces of north India, described his female co-worker as ‘a lady of much ability and intelligence’. However, his assertion that she was sure to become a good missionary was qualified with the caveat ‘provided she is under the influence of wise and devoted and spiritually minded colleagues’.² In its entirety, this statement neatly encapsulates the experiences of British women who became professional missionaries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Hewlett’s description of his colleague illustrates...

  8. 2 ‘She is a lady of much ability and intelligence’: the selection and training of candidates
    (pp. 17-70)

    The theme that runs through this study is the importance of the individual to the mission encounter. While this study seeks to generalise, the very process of doing so highlights the importance of the specific. Nationality, gender, and religion are useful categories to be applied to the missions that developed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. However, the chapters that follow indicate the important part that individual character and belief played in the development of a specific mission district or station. A complex interplay existed among these individuals both created by and acting in reply to the many...

  9. 3 LMS work in north India: ‘the feeblest work in all of India’
    (pp. 71-113)

    In this comparative study of women’s work in British missions, the work of the London Missionary Society represents a middle ground against which the other societies are compared. Its funds and candidates came primarily from English Congregational networks – from what might be called a mainstream nonconformity, although the society did reach outside England for workers and support. Members of the society occasionally expressed concern to maintain ties with Scottish Congregational circles, even though David Livingstone, like others of the LMS’s most famous missionaries, came from outside Congregational circles and from outside England. The LMS represents middle ground between the other...

  10. 4 ‘Good temper and common sense are invaluable’: the Church of Scotland Eastern Himalayan Mission
    (pp. 114-153)

    The long history of Scottish Presbyterian interest in missions is difficult to separate from the convoluted domestic history of the Scottish churches at this time. It was in 1824 that the Church of Scotland resolved to begin mission work, and it sent its first worker to Bombay in 1829. As might be expected, missionaries and their work were affected by the 1843 disruption of the Church of Scotland (CofS) into the Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland (FCofS). This resulted in the unusual situation wherein most (all but one) of the missionaries joined a Free Church mission,...

  11. 5 The work of the CIM at Chefoo: faith-filled generations
    (pp. 154-189)

    The China Inland Mission stands as one of the great successes of nineteenth-century mission expansion. Begun and sustained through the vision of one powerfully charismatic man, its vision and methods inspired additional faith missions in various parts of the world, and its base of support quickly spread from England to Europe, to Australia, and to North America. With Taylor–Broomhall descendants still at its helm today, the CIM survived great personnel and property losses in the Boxer Uprising in 1900 and left China later in the twentieth century to become the largest mission organisation working in Asia. No study of...

  12. 6 Gender and the professionalization of Victorian society: the mission example
    (pp. 190-228)

    Industrialism had resulted in a nineteenth-century Britain that was shaped by ‘a social revolution with social causes and a social process as well as profound social effects, including the demise of the pre-industrial aristocratic society and the rise of the viable class society of mid-Victorian England’.² In the last two decades of that century, a non-entrepreneurial professional class began to overtake the aristocratic and capitalist elites of the previous generation in both numbers and importance. In the older social systems, wealth was limited to land and capital and was concentrated in the hands of the few who controlled those resources....

  13. 7 Conclusion: fools for Christ’s sake
    (pp. 229-236)

    Missions became increasingly professional throughout the nineteenth century, both in ways that reflected the practice of wider British society and, more specifically, in ways that reflected their religious and colonial identities, the theological and national differences between mission societies, and the individuals who involved themselves in mission work. Although begun in a spirit of ecumenism, throughout the nineteenth century the professionalization of the mission movement involved establishing and maintaining a society-specific identity aimed at protecting the source of workers and funds at home and at ensuring spheres of influence in the field. These developments may be charted through administrative changes...

  14. Appendix
    (pp. 237-250)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-280)
  16. Index
    (pp. 281-285)