Academic journal article Magistra

Civilizing Habits: Women Missionaries and the Revival of French Empire

Academic journal article Magistra

Civilizing Habits: Women Missionaries and the Revival of French Empire

Article excerpt

Civilizing Habits: Women Missionaries and the Revival of French Empire, by Sarah. A. Curtis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, 371 pp., $74.00, ISBN 978-0-19-539418.

This is scholarship at its finest. Sarah Curtis makes clear use of significant and complex sources, unweaving a tangled web of politics and power and empire -building - with all its assumptions about women as passive observers - to make her case for the extraordinary missionary efforts of French women in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Women were determined to restore French Catholic life and culture despite enormous social pressures to the contrary; their evangelical energy sought to restore what was taken from them and to envision new and broader expressions of ministry.

Curtis focuses her study and analyses on the lives of three French women, each in turn influenced in spirituality and vision by the lives of other religious women. Philippine Duschesne, who began her religious life as a Visitation nun of a community disrupted and dispersed by French troops. She eventually joined ranks with Sophie Barat (Society of the Sacred Heart) and established the first overseas Sacred Heart mission at St. Louis, Missouri.

Emilie de Vialiar founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition (G Apparition) who provided sorely needed welfare services from their own resources. Only a few years later Emilie traveled to Algiers to establish a nursing mission serving Jews, Muslims and Christians, particularly women and children. …

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