Raising Victorian Children in China

If you can’t tell already by my many posts (here, here, and here), I’ve been fascinated by Jane Smith’s 1984 book about women missionaries in turn-of-the-century China. In this final post, I want to delve into Smith’s description of childrearing by missionary mothers. According to archival records, this was one of the most anxious and [Read More…]

Was Missionary Work Liberating for Women?

It depended. “Multiple freedoms and multiple opportunities reinforced each other,” writes historian Jane Smith in The Gospel of Gentility, “and [female missionaries] described themselves as “fulfilled,” “found,” and “happy.” “My face is so red and rosy I look like I had had an over dose of paint,” wrote Jessie Ankeny after arriving in Fukien. “I [Read More…]

Upsetting Gender Roles in Turn-of-the-Century China

Moving to China often upset the sharply separated gender spheres of Victorian America. Given the strangeness of the Chinese context, the husbands of female missionaries often became more domestic. As historian Jane Hunter notes her book The Gospel of Gentility, “Both husband and wife relied on homelife as a refuge in a strange land.” This [Read More…]

From “Mannish Woman” to Missionary

Sarah Goodrich, a missionary to China, begged her family and friends back at home in the United States not to picture her as “a mannish woman.” That she had to issue such a plea reflected a common American judgment of female missionaries at the turn of the twentieth century. The single woman missionary, writes historian [Read More…]

Picturing Pain

Last week several dozen scholars of religion met at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom to discuss the global history of evangelicalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The conference, organized by Kendrick Oliver, whose research on religion and the space program you really must become acquainted with, was terrific. Papers ranged from [Read More…]

THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM

How many good films have ever been made on the subject of Christian missions and missionaries? For many years, I have dearly loved the 1944 film The Keys of the Kingdom, based on the 1941 novel by A. J. Cronin. In more recent years, though, as I studied global Christianity, it occurred to me what [Read More…]

EAST IS EAST…

I recently learned a fascinating lesson about global Christianity – or to be more exact, the first phase of that great movement, over a thousand years ago. I also learned how little even educated people know about that phenomenon. I had the wondrous experience of visiting the Warriors, Tombs and Temples exhibit that is currently [Read More…]


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