Missionary Women

Missionary Women

Gender, Professionalism and the Victorian Idea of Christian Mission

Rhonda Anne Semple


Boydell Press



The first comprehensive study of the role of gender in British Protestant missionary expansion into China and India during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
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.

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October 2003
16 black and white, 7 line illustrations
303 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843830139
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
BISAC REL053000, REL045000
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This carefully researched study makes a unique and valuable context to mission studies. MISSIOLOGY
A mine of information about many other issues besides those of the changing roles of women missionaries. JOURNAL OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY
Informative for anyone interested in the Victorian age and in women's studies. ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR ENGLISH STUDIES
A worthwhile and original contribution. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW
An extensively researched and carefully argued book [that] helps to expand the boundaries of British social history even as it raises some fundamental questions. VICTORIAN STUDIES
Copious archival research makes this a valuable addition to scholarship on late-Victorian and Edwardian missionary enterprises. EHR