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Modern Women Modernizing Men: The Changing Missions of Three Professional Women in Asia and Africa, 1902-69

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During the interwar era, the world of mainstream Protestant missions was in transition. The once-dominant paradigm of separate spheres – “women’s work for women” – had lost its saliency, and professional women often entered work worlds largely peopled by men. Medical missionaries Belle Choné Oliver and Florence Murray and literature specialist Margaret Wrong were three suc During the interwar era, the world of mainstream Protestant missions was in transition. The once-dominant paradigm of separate spheres – “women’s work for women” – had lost its saliency, and professional women often entered work worlds largely peopled by men. Medical missionaries Belle Choné Oliver and Florence Murray and literature specialist Margaret Wrong were three such women. Using these women’s experiences in colonial India, Korea, and sub-Saharan Africa as case studies, Modern Women Modernizing Men explores how professionalism, religion, and feminism came together to enable missionary women to become the colleagues and mentors of Western and non-Western men. The “modern” Christian woman missionary, the author demonstrates, was in fact more an agent of modernization than an angel of domesticity. This book – a bold exploration of changing gender, professional, and race relations in colonial missionary settings – will be of interest to scholars engaged in gender, women’s, and postcolonial studies, as well as to readers interested in the history of the international missionary movement.


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During the interwar era, the world of mainstream Protestant missions was in transition. The once-dominant paradigm of separate spheres – “women’s work for women” – had lost its saliency, and professional women often entered work worlds largely peopled by men. Medical missionaries Belle Choné Oliver and Florence Murray and literature specialist Margaret Wrong were three suc During the interwar era, the world of mainstream Protestant missions was in transition. The once-dominant paradigm of separate spheres – “women’s work for women” – had lost its saliency, and professional women often entered work worlds largely peopled by men. Medical missionaries Belle Choné Oliver and Florence Murray and literature specialist Margaret Wrong were three such women. Using these women’s experiences in colonial India, Korea, and sub-Saharan Africa as case studies, Modern Women Modernizing Men explores how professionalism, religion, and feminism came together to enable missionary women to become the colleagues and mentors of Western and non-Western men. The “modern” Christian woman missionary, the author demonstrates, was in fact more an agent of modernization than an angel of domesticity. This book – a bold exploration of changing gender, professional, and race relations in colonial missionary settings – will be of interest to scholars engaged in gender, women’s, and postcolonial studies, as well as to readers interested in the history of the international missionary movement.

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