Encounters in Quest of Christian Womanhood: The Basel Mission in Pre- and Early Colonial Ghana

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Encounters in Quest of Christian Womanhood: The Basel Mission in Pre- and Early Colonial Ghana.

By Ulrike Sill. Leiden: Brill, 2010. Pp. xvii, 420. 130 [euro]/$185.

The Basel Mission work in the Gold Coast in the second quarter of the nineteenth century was established at great cost of lives of its first missionaries. Once the mission found a way to evade the scourge of malaria in the safety of the Akuapem hills, however, it was able to settle down to the serious business of evangelizing the people. Before long, the arrival of missionaries' wives and a couple of single women missionaries changed the perspective not just on the role of women but, quite fundamentally, on the definition and goal of "Christian womanhood."

Ulrike Sill's discussion, an expansion of her doctoral dissertation, draws widely on archival sources, notably the Basel Mission (now Mission 21) Archives. Her work traces the paths traveled by missionary pioneers and innovators in the towns where the Basel Mission operated, namely, Abokobi, Accra, and Akuropon (Akropong). Sill's interpretation of a broad range of archival evidence shows an understanding of both Basel Mission policies and the mind-set of its leaders. The Basel context illustrates the historic contradiction of Christianity as "a religion embraced especially by women," but where ironically the initiatives for women's mission were controlled by men (pp. 5-6).

Such gender issues in mission may be a major focus of the book, but they do not overly dominate the discussion. …

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