Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Domestic Frontiers

Domestic Frontiers: Gender, Reform, and American Interventions in the Ottoman Balkans and the Near East

Barbara Reeves-Ellington
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 232
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Domestic Frontiers
    Book Description:

    During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, American Protestant missionaries attempted to export their religious beliefs and cultural ideals to the Ottoman Empire. Seeking to attract Orthodox Christians and even Muslims to their faith, they promoted the paradigm of the “Christian home” as the foundation of national progress. Yet the missionaries’ efforts not only failed to win many converts but also produced some unexpected results. Drawing on a broad range of sources—Ottoman, Bulgarian, Russian, French, and English—Barbara ReevesEllington tracks the transnational history of this littleknown episode of American cultural expansion. She shows how issues of gender and race influenced the missionaries’ efforts as well as the complex responses of Ottoman subjects to American intrusions into their everyday lives. Women missionaries—married and single—employed the language of Christian domesticity and female moral authority to challenge the maledominated hierarchy of missionary society and to forge bonds of feminist internationalism. At the same time, Orthodox Christians adapted the missionaries’ ideology to their own purposes in developing a new strain of nationalism that undermined Ottoman efforts to stem growing sectarianism within their empire. By the beginning of the twentieth century, as some missionaries began to promote international understanding rather than Protestantism, they also paved the way for future expansion of American political and commercial interests.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-223-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. A Note on Terminology
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. INTRODUCTION The Home as the Focus of Women’s Civilizing Mission
    (pp. 1-16)

    In October 1876, officers of the Boston-based Woman’s Board of Missions of the Congregational Church celebrated the completion of the Constantinople Home, their ambitious new center for women missionaries in Istanbul.¹ The officers deemed the city an important location for their work; it was, in their view, “second to none in the foreign field.”² Perched along the cliffs above the Bosporus, the Home was prominently sited in Üsküdar, a quarter in the Ottoman capital. Its location was no accident. As Nathaniel G. Clark, foreign secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, remarked in a speech he gave...

  7. Chapter 1 Missionary Families and the Contested Concept of Home
    (pp. 17-49)

    Once she had settled into her new home in Izmir toward the end of 1843, Mary Van Lennep wrote to her mother in Hartford, Connecticut, to describe her new environment in the major Ottoman sea port south of Istanbul:

    Our house is quite a warm one for this place, and the little parlor in which I am writing is heated by a cheerful grate. The two little tables on either side the fire-place are ornamented by the gifts of my friends. The work-box which Mrs. E. gave me is a treasure. One large window lights the room, looking on the...

  8. Chapter 2 Education, Conversion, and Bulgarian Orthodox Nationalism
    (pp. 50-77)

    On a late September day in 1867, a crowd of Bulgarian Orthodox Christians attacked the mission house of Charles Morse, a missionary with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in the town of Stara Zagora. Rumors had spread among the Bulgarian community that Morse was holding a young Bulgarian girl against her will and had coerced her to convert to Protestantism. Several of the town’s leading citizens sent a deputation to Morse to ask him to surrender the girl, Maria Gencheva, to her mother. When Morse refused, Maria’s mother began to throw stones at his windows and, in...

  9. Chapter 3 The Mission Press and Bulgarian Domestic Reform
    (pp. 78-107)

    In his annual report for 1869, missionary Albert Long commented on a new development in Bulgarian society: Bulgarian Orthodox women had begun to campaign publicly for improved access to education for their daughters. Across the Ottoman Balkans, they organized associations to raise funds for schools and teachers’ salaries. They read Martha Jane Riggs’sLetters to Mothers,and they subscribed to the mission magazineZornitsa(Day Star), which Long published. Their activities confirmed for Long that the efforts of the missionaries in Istanbul to reach Bulgarian Orthodox women through their publications had been successful. Missionaries now had an appreciative audience for...

  10. Chapter 4 Unconventional Couples—Gender, Race, and Power in Mission Politics
    (pp. 108-139)

    During the early summer of 1876, tensions that had been festering for four years at the Samokov station of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions erupted into a major conflict that pitted two single American women missionaries and an Anglo-Bulgarian couple against the rest of the mission. The Christian home was at the heart of the crisis. Esther Maltbie and Anna Mumford had established unconventional domestic arrangements by setting up house together instead of living with a missionary family. The missionary couples at the station disagreed with the women’s decision but did not prevent them from going ahead...

  11. Chapter 5 The Constantinople Home
    (pp. 140-165)

    When the officers of the Woman’s Board of Missions designed the Constantinople Home in the early 1870s, they planned an ambitious institution for the center of women’s missionary operations in Istanbul. Envisaging a school for girls as the focal point of the building, they also included plans for a dispensary and a city mission where American women would work to improve the health and home life of Ottoman women. Equally important, the officers saw the building as a place where single women could experience domestic life and organize their professional affairs without interference from the men of the Western Turkey...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 166-174)

    In an era of massive political disruption, Protestantism and Ottomanism alike extended to Bulgarian Orthodox Christians the option of a supranational identity that transcended traditional markers of distinctiveness. American missionaries worked to bring Bulgarians into a global community of Protestant Christians, but they succeeded in exacerbating the splintering of Ottoman society by adding to religious segmentation. Ottoman reformers tried to mold the sultan’s subjects into Ottoman citizens, regardless of religion and ethnicity, but they succeeded in facilitating increasing expressions of nationalism among the expanding middle classes, which the missionaries then supported through their work of translation and education. The missionaries...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 175-204)
  14. Index
    (pp. 205-215)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 216-216)