A Sensitive Independence: Canadian Methodist Women Missionaries in Canada and the Orient, 1881-1925
By: Rosemary R. Gagan (author)Hardback
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In contrast to their idealized image as christian altruists, the missionaries responded pragmatically to the harsh social realities they faced. They established WMS girls' schools in Japan and China, made efforts to curtail infanticide and footbinding in West China, and campaigned against the exploitation of women of immigrant families in Canada. These were radical schemes, particularly when compared with the traditional societies and cultures where the missionaries not merely served but struggled for small victories. Rosemary Gagan concludes, however, that in spite of the limitations imposed by gender, place, and the institutional biases of the WMS, these women succeeded remarkably well. For some WMS recruits, the remoteness and brutality of their chosen vocation threatened to destroy their physical, emotional, and even spiritual well-being. For others, especially the least qualified women who were consigned to work among Canada's indigenous peoples and immigrants, missionary work quickly lost its romantic gloss.
The most accomplished recruits, socially and intellectually, were sent to the politically visible stations of the Orient where they flourished as professional altruists. Gagan suggests that the latter were likely to emerge as professional women who remained with the Society until death or retirement while the former merely bridged the years between dependence on parents and the establishment of their own households. Gagan's analysis of the backgrounds and careers of WMS missionaries demythologizes their experience and reveals them to be multi-dimensional, ambitious, and energetic career women whose religion was a vital aspect of their private and public lives.
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- ID: 9780773508965
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