Competing Kingdoms

Women, Mission, Nation, and the American Protestant Empire, 1812–1960

Competing Kingdoms

American Encounters/Global Interactions

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Book Pages: 432 Illustrations: 32 illustrations Published: March 2010

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, History > U.S. History, Religious Studies

Competing Kingdoms rethinks the importance of women and religion within U.S. imperial culture from the early nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth. In an era when the United States was emerging as a world power to challenge the hegemony of European imperial powers, American women missionaries strove to create a new Kingdom of God. They did much to shape a Protestant empire based on American values and institutions. This book examines American women’s activism in a broad transnational context. It offers a complex array of engagements with their efforts to provide rich intercultural histories about the global expansion of American culture and American Protestantism.

An international and interdisciplinary group of scholars, the contributors bring under-utilized evidence from U.S. and non-U.S. sources to bear on the study of American women missionaries abroad and at home. Focusing on women from several denominations, they build on the insights of postcolonial scholarship to incorporate the agency of the people among whom missionaries lived. They explore how people in China, the Congo Free State, Egypt, India, Japan, Ndebeleland (colonial Rhodesia), Ottoman Bulgaria, and the Philippines perceived, experienced, and negotiated American cultural expansion. They also consider missionary work among people within the United States who were constructed as foreign, including African Americans, Native Americans, and Chinese immigrants. By presenting multiple cultural perspectives, this important collection challenges simplistic notions about missionary cultural imperialism, revealing the complexity of American missionary attitudes toward race and the ways that ideas of domesticity were reworked and appropriated in various settings. It expands the field of U.S. women’s history into the international arena, increases understanding of the global spread of American culture, and offers new concepts for analyzing the history of American empire.

Contributors: Beth Baron, Betty Bergland, Mary Kupiec Cayton, Derek Chang, Sue Gronewold, Jane Hunter, Sylvia Jacobs, Susan Haskell Khan, Rui Kohiyama, Laura Prieto, Barbara Reeves-Ellington, Mary Renda, Connie A. Shemo, Kathryn Kish Sklar, Ian Tyrrell, Wendy Urban-Mead


Competing Kingdoms reveals the complex and unpredictable results of the missionary enterprise, showing how the work of American women simultaneously constructed and destabilized gender, cultural, and racial hierarchies, with significant results for sending and receiving cultures alike. The tensions suggested in the volume’s title play out in fascinating detail in its pages.” — Andrew Witmer, Journal of American History

“This fine collection links together individual case studies from Africa, North America, India, China, and Japan. The authors carefully place their work in the relevant literature of cultural histories of US empire and post-colonial theory…. Selections from this book would be effective readings in courses on US foreign policy and women’s history, as well as in various sub-fields (Native American, Chinese, Japanes, African, and Middle Eastern History).” — Jeremy Rich, Canadian Journal of History

Competing Kingdoms presents fresh and wide-ranging scholarship on gender and mission, linking it to American cultural expansionism (1812–1960).” — Maina Chawla Singh, International Bulletin of Missionary Research

“[A]n important and welcome collection of essays. . . . The attempt to connect gender and foreign relations succeeds thanks to the breadth of scholarship in this volume and the diverse but focused essays that comprise it. . . . [A] groundbreaking contribution to US history.” — Johanna Selles, Missiology

“In Competing Kingdoms, Barbara Reeves-Ellington, Kathryn Kish Sklar, and Connie A. Shemo bring together a group of emerging and established historians in an innovative project of bringing insights from American mission women’s history into the framework of American cultural imperialism. . . . This collection offers fertile directions for scholars concerned with American imperialism and more generally with the thorny questions of gender, missions, and empires. We can look forward to many of these historians producing book-length accounts where they can develop their research findings more fully. The editors are to be congratulated.” — Patricia Grimshaw, Journal of Church and State

Competing Kingdoms achieves through the inclusion of many authors what few have been able to achieve singly: the internationalization of American women’s history. It focuses on a group of culture agents who were at the avant-garde of America’s emergence into global influence: women missionaries.” — Ann Braude, author of Sisters and Saints: Women and American Religion

“This rich, diverse collection of essays illuminates women’s pivotal role in the Protestant missions that were at the center of Americans’ interactions with Asia, Africa, and the Middle East in the nineteenth century and early twentieth. Throughout the pieces, readers witness the women that made missions possible—not only as missionaries, but also as sponsors and audiences—navigating the tensions and intersections between ideals and practices of spiritual equality and those of patriarchy, empire, and race, enlisting and challenging gendered conventions in the process. This volume will prove an indispensable guide in the effort to bring gender analysis, religious culture, and women’s agency into an internationalized historiography of the United States.” — Paul A. Kramer, author of The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States and the Philippines


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Barbara Reeves-Ellington is Associate Professor of History at Siena College in Loudonville, New York.

Kathryn Kish Sklar is Distinguished Professor of History at the State University of New York, Binghamton.

Connie A. Shemo is Assistant Professor of History at the State University of New York, Plattsburgh.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xi

Introduction / Barbara Reeves-Ellington, Kathryn Kish Sklar, and Connie Schemo 1

I. Re-visioning American Women in the World

Women's Mission in Historical Perspective: American Identity and Christian Internationalism / Jane H. Hunter 19

Woman, Missions, and Empire: New Approaches to American Cultural Expansion / Ian Tyrrell 43

II. Women

Canonizing Harriet Newell: Women, the Evangelical Press, and the Foreign Mission Movement in New England, 1800–1840 / Mary Kupiec Cayton 69

An Unwomanly Woman and Her Sons in Christ: Faith, Empire, and Gender in Colonial Rhodesia, 1899–1906 / Wendy Urban-Mead 94

"So Thoroughly American": Gertrude Howe, Kang Cheng, and Cultural Imperialism in the Women's Foreign Missionary Society, 1872–1931 / Connie Shemo 117

From Redeemers to Partners: American Women Missionaries and the "Woman Question" in India 1919–1939 / Susan Haskell Khan 141

III. Mission

Settler Colonists, "Christian Citizenship," and the Women's Missionary Federation at the Bethany Indian Mission in Wittenberg, Wisconsin, 1884–1934 / Betty Ann Bergland 167

New Life, New Faith, New Nation, New Women: Competing Models at the Door of Hope Mission in Shanghai / Sue Gronewold 195

"No Nation Can Rise Higher than Its Women": The Women's Ecumenical Missionary Movement and Tokyo Women's Christian College / Rui Kohiyama 218

Nile Mother: Lillian Thrasher and the Orphans of Egypt / Beth Baron 240

IV. Nation

Embracing Domesticity: Women, Mission, and Nation Building in Ottoman Europe, 1832–1872 / Barbara Reeves-Ellington 269

Imperial Encounters at Home: Women, Empire, and the Home Mission Project in Late Nineteenth-Century America / Derek Chang 293

Three African American Women Missionaries in the Congo, 1887–1899: The Confluence of Race, Culture, Identity, and Nationality / Sylvia M. Jacobs 318

"Stepmother America": The Woman's Board of Missions in the Philippines, 1902–1930 / Laura R. Prieto 342

Conclusion. Doing Everything: Religion, Race, and Empire in the U.S. Protestant Women's Missionary Enterprise, 1812–1960 / Mary A. Renda 367

Selected Bibliography 391

Contributors 397

Index 401
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4650-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4658-6
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