Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ian Christopher Fletcher

Second Advisor

Mohammed Hassen Ali

Third Advisor

Ghulam Nadri

Fourth Advisor

Wendy Venet


Drawing from the rich records of Protestant British women’s missionary societies, this dissertation explores the motivations, goals, efforts, and experiences of British women who pursued careers as missionary doctors and nurses dedicated to serving Indian women in the decades before Indian independence in 1947. While most scholarship on women missionaries focuses on the imperial heyday of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, this study highlights women medical missionaries in the late colonial period and argues for the significance of this transitional moment, a time of deepening change in medical science and clinical practice, imperial rule and nationalist politics, gender relations, and the nature of the missionary enterprise in both India and Britain. Analysis of the relationship between missionaries in India and their managers in Britain reveals the tensions among women who shared a common commitment, yet brought different perspectives and priorities to women’s missionary work. A life-cycle approach to work and career allows examination of individual women’s development as healthcare professionals and as missionaries. Telling the stories of missionaries’ everyday experiences shows that a sense of purpose, preparation, professionalism, and positive role models sustained those women who were able to meet the great demands of medical missionary work. These missionaries often overcame obstacles and challenges through negotiation and collaboration with patients and their families as well as reflection and learning from experience. Many came to believe they had achieved measurable progress and made a positive difference in the quality of Indian women’s lives. The missionaries’ commitment to Christian medical service for Indian women reached beyond the colonial era and eventually embraced a transfer of leadership to Indian Christians. [WU1]

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