Gender, culture, and Christianity: American Protestant mission schools in China, 1880-1930.
Author(s)Graham, Gael Norma
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AbstractAlthough recent historians charge that the American Protestant missionary movement in China was an exercise in cultural imperialism, there are no works that systematically examine the missionary critique of Chinese society, their prescription for improving China, or the results of such efforts. Moreover, historians have only begun to explore the significance of gender within the missionary movement and have succeeded in linking missionary attempts to reform the Chinese gender system to cultural imperialism in very loose and unconvincing ways. This dissertation focuses on American Protestant schools in China as being the best institutions to observe missionary attempts to reshape Chinese society. Drawing on numerous personal missionary papers as well as school records, journals, and published works by missionary educators, the dissertation examines the missionary critique of Chinese society, the ways in which schools were used to promote reforms, and how the missionary-Chinese relationship developed in conjunction with these schools. The dissertation centers on the years 1880 to 1930, which represent the heyday of foreign-controlled mission schools in China. This dissertation argues that although the missionaries intended their schools to be vehicles for reforming Chinese society, with gender reform as a top priority, in fact the missionaries were never able to impose their ideals on the Chinese. For one thing, missionaries had to adapt their schools to Chinese desires in order to attract and keep students. For another, missionaries were not in control of the changes that China underwent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Missionaries had sought many of these changes, notably, the establishment of a national system of education, the emancipation of Chinese women from Confucian tradition, the stirring of a nationalistic spirit among their students, and the development of Chinese Christian leadership. Ironically, the forms in which these developments took place often horrified the missionaries. The missionary educational movement influenced the Chinese and was influenced by them rather than constituting a one-sided imposition of American cultural values.
Philosophy, Religion and Theology
University of Michigan, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies