Women Were Made For Such Things: Women Missionaries in British Columbia 1850s-1940s

Margaret Whitehead
1988 Atlantis   unpublished
As Canadian Church historians have traditionally portrayed men as the movers and shakers of Canadian Church historical development, most published scholarship on the history of Canada's missionaries deal almost exclusively with men. Yet, preliminary research on British Columbia's missionary frontier suggests that women made a vital contribution to the Churches' proselytization work among the province's "heathens." This paper argues that female missionaries, acting in the dual roles of church
more » ... roles of church functionaries and society's cultural emissaries, played a crucial role in the development not only of frontier educational, medical, and social services but also of white/native relationships. These women found in their missionary roles both continuing limitations and new opportunities for independence. RESUME Les historians deaeglises canadiennesetdes missionaires canadiensdepeignent les homme d'eglise comme des figures eminentesdudeveloppement de l'histoire religieuse. Cependenta le jour la recherche sur la frontiere missionaires de Colombie Britannique reveleque les femmes ont joue un rele vital dans les travail des eglises parmi "les sauvages" de la province. Cette etude tend a montrer que les femmes missionaires en tout que fonctionaires des egliseseiemissairesculturelsde la societe ont joue un role decisif non seulementdans la developpement des ecoleset des services medicauxet sociaux de la frontiere mais encore dans les relations entre colons er indiginents. Si ces femmes missionaires etaient encore souvent reduites a des taches domestiques, leur roles dans le missions leur donnaient aussi des possibilites nouvelles d'affirmer leur independance. Oh, why did God Creator wise, that peopled highest Heaven With spirits masculine, create at last This novelty on earth, this fair defect Of nature, and not fill the world at once With men, as angels, without feminine; or find some other way to generate Mankind?-Milton: Paradise Lost 1 The "Fall of Man," blamed on Eve, (Adam's weakness has tended to be somewhat downplayed) has long been the starting point for delineating the relationship between women and men within the Christian churches. 2 For centuries , Eve's "irresponsibility" was used to justify the marginalization of women within both the Judaic and Christian traditions. There is growing evidence that, not only within the early Christian community-which new scholarship reveals to have been more egalitarian than formerly recognized-but also in later centuries, women played leadership roles; 3 however, it is undeniable that in spite of the careers of certain outstanding individuals, women's power and influence within the Christian church eroded over time. 4 Paul's writings on the topic of women, in particular his purported instructions to Timothy (2:11-14) that women should not be permitted to teach or "have authority over men," justified Church actions in limiting women's religious roles. A "lethal rebuff" was delivered to later generations of Christian women when that most influential theologian, Thomas Aquinas, wrote not only that "the voice of women [was] and invitation to unchas-tity, and therefore must not be heard in Church," but also that women did not possess "the required wisdom" to be preachers and teachers. 5 Most male Canadian church historians appear to have subscribed sufficiently to Thomist theory regarding the peripheral nature of the role of women within the churches to have delineated men as the movers and shakers of Canadian church historical development. 6 Since men exercised the power in the churches, historians have tended to become preoccupied with male-dominated official bureaucracies. However, Gail Malmgreen's recent comment that in Britain "religion has so far been a some