This essay uses a 1915 crisis at the American Presbyterian Hackett Medical College for Women in Guangzhou, China as a lens to explore the level of control Chinese women, who were known as “assistants,” exercised at the school. Official literature of the Hackett portrays the American woman missionary physician Dr. Mary Fulton as controlling the college, but in fact its Chinese women graduates largely ran the institution for some years before 1915. Challenging images of American women missionary physicians either as heroines or imperialists, this article describes instead how Chinese women shaped the institution. Placing the Hackett into the broader context of American Presbyterian medical education for Chinese women since 1879, it argues that rather than only interpreting and adapting missionary ideologies, many of the Chinese women medical students in Guangzhou brought their own conceptions of women practicing medicine. In the case of medical education for women in Guangzhou before 1915, American missionaries were partially responding to Chinese traditions and demands. Ultimately, this essay presents a more complex view of cultural transfer in the women’s foreign mission movement of this period.
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