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Canadian Review of American Studies 1992Special Issue, Part II Missions and Women's History: A Tale of "Reflex Influences" Patricia Skidmore 301 LeslieA. Flemming, ed. Women's Work for Women: Missionaries and Social Change in Asia. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1989. Patricia Grimshaw. Paths of Duty: American Missionary Wives in Nineteenth Century Hawaii. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Patricia R. Hill. The World Their Household: The American Woman's Foreign Mission Movement and Cultural Transformation, 1870-1920. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1985. Jane Hunter. The Gospel of Gentility:American Women Missionaries in Tumof -the Century China. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984. When turn-of-the-century Americans and Canadians set out to convert the world to Christianity in one generation, they had no qualms about including women in their work. In fact, North American women's mission work would not only convert and civilizethe secluded, benighted women of the heathen world, but it would also deepen the spiritual lives of all concerned. The "reflex influence" of mission work, as they called it, would cause women in mission societies at home and in mission stations abroad to appreciate Godliness and civilized behaviour codes. Several detailed studies have appeared during the last decade that lead to the conclusion that the "reflex influences" of mission work were not exactlywhat contemporaries expected. 302 Canadian Review of American Studies Women gained experience at organizing mission support networks at home and mission activities abroad; they undertook to preach, lobby, argue, absorb, and initiate. They learned to cope with adversity and recognize opportunity. Sometimes they emerged looking like new women, showing independence and achievingself-fu1filmentand always,they were ambivalent about womanly duties and missionary requirements. In particular cases, such as married women serving in Hawaii, the conflicts of role and ideology ended in disappointment for the women. On the other hand, for single women in the mission fields of Hawaii, Asia, and India, religious duty led to unexpected degrees of independence. Recent Canadian studies by Rosemary Gagan (1992) and Ruth Brouwer (1990)invite perusal of comparable American missionary women's histories. Of these, four have appeared in the last decade, which together provide a rich vein of information, detail, and data. Along with the hitherto unavailable factual material which the authors have gleaned from American mission societyrecords, correspondence of missionary women, and institutional files, these authors have supplied analyses and interpretations that show the importance of missionwork in the evolution of American ideas about women and their roles in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century America. Leslie A Fleming's Women's Work for Women is a collection of new essaysby recognized scholars which cover a rather wide field. The essays are united firstly by their explorations of mission history, with its tensions between the goals of evangelization and social uplift, and its disputes about whether to carry American culture abroad or adapt to the local ways; and secondly, in sharing a focus on women's history. They portray the newlyeducated female teachers and doctors who were carving out useful roles for themselves and providing education for local women, and they speculate on sisterhood among missionaries and local women. Finally, they address the questions surrounding missions and their impact upon the emergence of modern Asia. All of the authors build upon little-used mission-based documents (magazines, reports, correspondence) and struggle with the ethnocentric nature of such sources. Fleming's introduction gives the volume a veneer of unity; the greater merit lies in the essays themselves. Two essaysexplore missionwork outside American hegemony. These are Geoffrey Burkhart's "Danish Women Missionaries: Personal Accounts of Patricia Skidmore I 303 Work with South Indian Women" and Ruth Brouwer's "Opening Doors Through Social SeIVice:Aspects of Women's Work in the Canadian Presbyterian Mission in Central India, 1877-1914." Of the rest, two describe Chinese missions: Marjorie King's essay shows that efforts to educate and liberate Chinese housewives misfired, reinforcing traditional Chinese patriarchy ;Sara W. Tucker's account of the Hackett Women's Medical Centre of Canton, China, from 1900 to 1930 shows how successfullymedical Presbyterian missionary, Mary Fulton, mustered her skills and resources to provide Chinese medical education and services.Fleming's own essay, "New...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 301-307
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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