The Gospel of Gentility

American Women Missionaries in Turn-of-the-Century China

Jane Hunter

View Inside Price: $34.00


September 10, 1989
342 pages, 6 x 9
ISBN: 9780300046038
Paper

At the turn of the century, women represented over half of the American foreign mission force and had settled in “heathen” China to preach the lessons of Christian domesticity.  In this engrossing narrative, Jane Hunter uses diaries, reminiscences, and letters to recreate the backgrounds of the missionaries and the problems and satisfactions they found in China.  Her book offers insights not only into the experiences of these women but also into the ways they mirrored the female culture of Victorian America.
“A subtle and finely written book… [on] an aspect of the mission world in China that has never before received such probing, affectionate, detailed treatment.”—Jonathan Spence, New York Review of Books
“An important and often entertaining work….New angles on imperialism and gentility alike.”—Martin E. Marty, Reviews in American History
“A triumph of sophisticated subtle intelligence.  Though quite cognizant of the dark side of the confluence of American nationalism and the missionary enterprise, Hunter’s interest is in moving beyond that understanding to explore how the meeting of two cultures affected, and was shaped by, a female angle of vision.”—Regina Morantz-Sanchez, Signs
“Jane Hunter writes better than most novelists, and she has a topic more demanding and rewarding than the subjects many novelists deal with.  Her story of the valiant and ofttimes guilt-ridden women who ventured to China, singly or with spouses, to win the country for Christ creates a world and beckons readers into it.”—Christian Century

"I recommend Jane Hunter's book with enthusiasm and pleasure. It is a terrific piece of work: beautifully organized, extremely well written, thought provoking, and intellectually very exciting. I had difficulty putting it down."—Marilyn Young, New York University

"Makes an indispensable contribution to the understanding of what the presence of American women meant to China and to American society back home at the turn of the century."—Akira Iriye, University of Chicago

"Highly recommended."—Library Journal

"A book of this kind, well-researched and generous in its appreciation of a now distant era is of interest for the light it throws on a China that is once more thirsty for Western contact, as it was sixty years ago."—Richard Hams, Times Literary Supplement

"Mission service granted women time, space and freedom from traditional roles at home, while it offered the ambience of a supportive community. How these Westerners shared the domestic sphere with their Asian counterparts, took pride in their small victories as culture carriers and assumed significant roles in the Americanization of the Orient is a study in contrasts that reveals much about the two societies."—Publishers Weekly

"Hunter's book offers insight both into these missionary women and into female culture."—Yale Alumni Magazine and Journal

"A broadly conceived work written with grace and style. Concrete examples, apt quotations, and some wonderfully graphic photographs enrich the narrative while adding interest. . . . It is a delight to welcome such a readable and intellectually provocative monograph on the Western origins and outlook of these 'she-tigers,' on their lives in China, and on their relationships with Chinese."—Jessie G. Lutz, International Bulletin of Missionary Research

"Highly stimulating and thought provoking."—Esther Ng, Asiaweek

"Hunter writes better than most novelists, and she has a topic more demanding and rewarding than the subjects many novelists deal with. Her story of the valiant and ofttimes guilt-ridden women who ventured to China, singly or with spouses, to win the country for Christ creates a world and beckons readers into it."—The Christian Century

"Drawing on extensive primary sources, this absorbing account is based on the lives of some forty women missionaries in China. . . . An outstanding contribution to the literature. . . . Hunter's is an intriguing study, imaginatively conceived and well crafted, that ought to pave the way for further studies in this field."—Sandra C. Taylor, The Journal of American History

"In this subtle and finely written book we hear the voices of scores of women who worked in the Protestant China missions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Jane Hunter draws most of her material from the diaries and letters written by the women themselves, and her categories grow not from preestablished schemes but from the rhythms and preoccupations of her protagonists. . . . [A] fine study of an aspect of the mission world in China that has never before received such probing, affectionate, detailed treatment."—Jonathan Spence, New York Times Review of Books

"Hunter's organization and prose make this book easily understandable and enjoyable to the novice, and her excellent integration of primary source material renders it valuable to the historian as well. Hunter's narration is compelling throughout the book, and the many photographs personalize the women whose lives are recounted. . . . Overall, The Gospel of Gentility is an impressive piece of work and a significant addition to the literature on missionaries, Sino-American cultural relations, and American women."—Marilyn Selby, Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Science

"An important historical study of American women. Well-written, it includes approximately 40 photographs."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"This is a fascinating book, full of absorbing detail, about the women missionaries of this century with an underscoring of the tremendous cultural differences between the missionaries and the culture of China (not least of all China's attitude toward gender). Adding to the general fascination of the book are a number of photos of women missionaries in China of the book's period."—ADRIS Newsletter

"Hunter's book provides great insight into the little-known world of American missionary women."—Bobby Siu, American Historical Review

"In applying a feminist approach Jane Hunter has produced a study both revealing and controversial."—Terrill E. Lautz, China Update

"Impressively researched, gracefully written, and cogently argued."—Grant Wacker, Evangelical Studies Bulletin

"An important and often entertaining work. . . . New angles on imperialism and gentility alike."—Martin E. Marty, Reviews in American History
 
 

"A triumph of sophisticated subtle intelligence. Though quite cognizant of the dark side of the confluence of American nationalism and the missionary enterprise, Hunter's interest is in moving beyond that understanding to explore how the meeting of two cultures affected, and was shaped by, a female angle of vision."—Regina Morantz-Sanchez, Signs
 

"I feared these would be dull missionary reports, but that is not the case for there is a great deal of information about the social life of the period. . . . Whatever the Chinese now think about missionaries, they did a splendid job in the medical and educational development of China and much of that story is contained in this book."—Clare Hollingworth, Sunday Telegraph 
 

"Hunter, an unusually good writer, has produced one of the most interesting books around on Victorian women and on women and colonialism."—Kris Hoover, Feminist Bookstore News
 
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