"Come over and help us" : white women, reform and the missionary endeavour in India 1876-1920.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth centuries was a period of reform in English speaking countries. This thesis examines the way in which New Zealand women missionaries to India between 1875 and 1920 embodied in their missionary activities the ideologies of reform. A number of themes will be considered in this thesis. The first, is that the New Zealand women who undertook missionary work in India were part of the trend towards the feminisation of the foreign missionary movement, and as such, were sites of feminist reform. These women were mostly formally educated and trained, and their mission work in India was largely a continuation of careers as single independent women which provided them with ,opportunities for travel and adventure not open to other single women in New Zealand. This challenging of traditional gender boundaries was made more respectable because it was undertaken in a religious sphere and justified by more traditional ideas of femininity and evangelical beliefs. These women also developed identities as reformers, and were influenced by feminist, imperial and evangelical ideas about reform. A second major theme is the way in which missionary women's representations of India in missionary literature were influenced by these ideologies of reform. This will be examined by looking at how the New Zealand missionary women negotiated and articulated Indian landscapes, spaces, dress and bodies through the rhetoric of rescuing, cleanliness and femininity, which was in turn influenced by the feminist, imperial and evangelical strands of reform.