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Domestic Frontiers

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

Barbara Reeves-Ellington

Publication Year: 2013

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 Reeves-Ellington tracks the transnational history of this little-known 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 male-dominated 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.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press


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pp. 1-4

Title Page

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pp. 5-5

Copyright Page

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pp. 6-6

Dedication Page

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pp. 7-8

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

A Note on Terminology

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pp. xv-xviii

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Introduction: The Home as the Focus of Women’s Civilizing Mission

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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...

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1. Missionary Families and the Contested Concept of Home

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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...

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2. Education, Conversion, and Bulgarian Orthodox Nationalism

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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...

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3. The Mission Press and Bulgarian Domestic Reform

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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...

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4. Unconventional Couples—Gender, Race, and Power in Mission Politics

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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...

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5. The Constantinople Home

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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...

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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...


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pp. 175-204


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pp. 205-214

Back Cover

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pp. 236-236

E-ISBN-13: 9781613762233
E-ISBN-10: 1613762232
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558499812
Print-ISBN-10: 1558499814

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 12 illus.
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 859687009
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Domestic Frontiers

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women missionaries -- Balkan Peninsula -- History.
  • Women missionaries -- Turkey -- History.
  • Missions, American -- Balkan Peninsula -- History.
  • Missions, American -- Turkey -- History.
  • Protestant churches -- Missions -- History.
  • Sex role -- Religious aspects -- Christianity -- History.
  • Home -- Political aspects -- Balkan Peninsula -- History.
  • Home -- Political aspects -- Turkey -- History.
  • Balkan Peninsula -- Race relations -- History.
  • Turkey -- Race relations -- History.
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