Woman’s work for woman
in Missionaries and their medicine
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Female missionaries, supported by male Indian assistants, sustained much of the clinical work of the Bhil mission. Although Bhil women did not practise purdah or live in zenanas, the missionaries could see that they had a low social status and were frequently oppressed by their menfolk. The missionaries also tried to impress on Bhil men the need to treat the women of their families with greater consideration. In his report of 1875, Thomas Hendley had noted that as a rule female friends aided mothers in labour. They kept them in a warm hut, 'and even in cases of haemorrhage, apply warm cloths, and administer hot-spiced drinks'. Several feminist scholars have asked more profound questions about the rhetoric of a 'sisterhood of women' in a colonial context. Catherine Hall points out that although white women commonly lamented the suffering of their imagined 'sisters', the black slave women were colonisers.

Missionaries and their medicine

A Christian modernity for tribal India

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