American Missionaries in Egypt, Gender Relations, and the Professional and Social Formation of Women, 1854–1967

In: Social Sciences and Missions
Heather J. Sharkey University of Pennsylvania USA Philadelphia, PA

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This article considers the impact that the American Presbyterian mission in Egypt (1854–1967) exerted on American and Egyptian women, by expanding career opportunities and roles in church life and promoting new ideas about gender relations, sexuality, and family. It uses American women doctors and Egyptian Bible Women as case studies for female professionalism. Questioning the premise that influence moved one way, from American missionaries towards Egyptians, this study rejects triumphalist narratives about American progress in the gender domain; develops the story of missionary encounters as a bumpy two-way street; and shows how American and Egyptian women struggled to seize opportunities amid persistent gender discrimination. The article discusses the dearth of sources about these women, a shortfall that widens the gender gap in historical representation, requiring us to read between the lines.

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