Missionary families

Race, gender and generation on the spiritual frontier

Missionary families were the building blocks of an enterprise that spanned the globe in the nineteenth (and twentieth) century. This book explores both the institutional and the intimate history of the missionary family. It is anchored in the specificities of the South Seas Mission and South African Mission: the first two missions of the London Missionary Society (LMS), out on the absolute border of the spiritual frontier. The book traces the history of the missionary couple's place within LMS mission objectives in the nineteenth century. Missionary wives became unofficial and unpaid missionaries themselves with carefully delineated gendered roles. The initial ambivalence about their role gave way to their ascendency in mid-century, only to be partially marginalised upon the arrival of single 'lady' missionaries from 1875 onwards. The book shows how the personal and professional lives of male and female missionaries were structured around marriage, and if they were lucky, companionate marriage. Male and female missionaries on the spiritual frontier had to deal with the all the difficulties and delights of parenthood in a state of perceived racial and cultural isolation. The book unpacks the duality of missionary children, how their good and bad behaviour could actively shape the mission experience. Second-generation missionaries were a success story for the LMS, received encouragement from their parents, had cultural sympathy, linguistic fluency and climactic suitability, and were often just the beginning of long-standing missionary dynasties.

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