Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

American Women in Mission: A Social History of Their Thought and Practice

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

American Women in Mission: A Social History of Their Thought and Practice

Article excerpt

American Women in Mission:A Social History of Their Thought and Practice. By Dana L. Robert. [The Modern Mission Era, 1792-1992: An Appraisal.] (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press. 1996. Pp. xxii, 444. $30.00 paperback.)

Historians and theologians have given short shrift to the role of women in the missionary movement; much research remains to be done. This work by Dana L. Robert, a professor in Boston University, begins to fill the gap. She bases her study on three assumptions: that women participated in the creation of American mission theories; that gender had an effect on those theories; and "that mission theory includes motivations, goals, theological assumptions, and reflections upon practical strategies that American women employed as they participated in foreign mission:'

The study moves from the wives of missionaries (American Board and Baptist Convention), in the early nineteenth century, to unmarried women missionaries (Methodist Episcopal Church) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (where she also includes evangelical missions), to the rather brief section on Roman Catholic missions (Maryknoll Sisters).

In each section, Robert describes the social context, and grounds her examples in the chronology of the missionary movement as a whole. For example, she demonstrates how the role of the missionary wife developed with an emphasis on service and usefulness, which led to lives of great self-sacrifice. Women and children came to be the main recipients of this service, and teaching emerged as the main work. Through the use of case studies, the reader follows these developments in the lives of the early women missionaries.

As unmarried missionary women came to be accepted, albeit grudgingly, around the 1860's, we see a turning point in mission history. …

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