CONVERT BUT NOT CONVERTED: THE WESTERN LIVES OF AMERICAN MISSIONARY WOMEN IN CHINA (1860-1920)
Fuchs, Caroline Hearn
ABSTRACTKate Roberts Hearn was buried in a Shanghai cemetery in 1891, a short four years after her acceptance into the Women's Missionary Service of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In 1873, Charlotte "Lottie" Moon left for a new life in China as a single missionary woman. She served in that country for nearly 40 years, dying aboard ship on a final return voyage to the United States. Both women left their American homes expecting to convert the people of an alien land to Christianity. They also arrived in China prepared to maintain their Western rituals and comforts, which effectively separated them from the Chinese and cultivated a sense of the "Other." In this way, missionary women came to convert, but were not converted themselves.Missionary communities, specifically missionary women, vigorously sought to maintain domestic and work lifestyles anchored in Western culture. The rise of "domesticity" in the nineteenth century gave women an influential role as a graceful redeemer, able to transform "heathens" by demonstrating civilized values of a Christian home, complete with Western elements of cleanliness, companionable marriage, and the paraphernalia of Victorian life, such as pianos in the parlor. On a simpler level, the domesticity of missionaries represented a preservation of the familiar and the home left behind. Sent to evangelize to the women and children, missionary women were expected to accept the Chinese into their Christian world, while at the same time they built home lives that effectively excluded them.This thesis examines the life of a missionary woman at the turn of the nineteenth century. By following the arc of her life--including the life stages of marriage, home life, vocation, and death--the contradictions inherent in missionary service, especially the maintenance of Western traditions, are illuminated.
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