Establishing India: British women’s missionary organisations and their outreach to the women and girls of India, 1820-1870
Establishing India explores how British Protestant women’s foreign missionary societies of the mid nineteenth century established and negotiated outreach to the women and girls of India. The humanitarian claims made about Indian women in the missionary press did not translate into direct missionary activity by British women. Instead, India was adopted as a site of missionary activity for more complex and local reasons: from encounters with opportunistic colonial informants to seeking inclusion in national organisations. The prevailing narrative about women’s missionary work in nineteenth-century India is both distorted and unsatisfactory. British women’s missionary work has been characterised as focused on seeking to enter and transform the high-caste Hindu household. This both obscures other important groups of females who were key historical actors, and it reduces the scope of women’s work to the domestic and private. In fact, British women missionaries sought inclusion in mainstream missionary strategies, which afforded them visibility, largely through establishing schools and orphanages. They also engaged with mainstream discourses of colonial and missionary education in India. Establishing India also details how India was established for British missionary women through texts and magazines. Missionary magazines provided British women with a continuous record of women’s work in India, reinforcing a belief in the providential rightfulness of the project. Magazines also both facilitated and misrepresented various types of work that British women engaged with in India: orphan sponsorship was established through the magazines and myths of zenana work were constructed. Missionary magazines were crucial to counteracting male narratives of white female absence or victimhood in India and they served to keep the women’s missionary project in India both visible and intact.
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