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Lost in Translation: Home Economics and the Sidon Girls' School of Lebanon, c. 1924-1932

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The American Protestant Syria Mission, founded in 1821 in Lebanon, targeted young women and girls, the mothers and wives of the future, as crucial to its aims to spread the Gospel. The Mission thus founded numerous schools for girls. One institution which played a significant role in female education was the Sidon Girls' School, founded in 1862. In the 1920s the Mission initiated a self-described “revolutionary” plan for the school by instituting a home economics program, which put the school on the map of the educational landscape in the Middle East. This article deals with the legacy of the home economics program at Sidon Girls' School, raising broader issues about American-style education imported to the Middle East. Missionaries enthused about the “progressive,” modern training they offered in their schools, seemingly ignorant of the existence of home economics training already offered by indigenous government and private schools. The article investigates how the “new” education in home economics offered in Sidon reflected trends in, and attempted to transfer concepts adapted from, American female education, exploring how and why the missionary message was lost in translation; and how women graduates subverted it. L'American Protestant Syria Mission, fondée en 1821 au Liban, considérait les filles et jeunes femmes, futures mères et futures épouses, comme cruciales pour son travail d'évangélisation. La Mission créa pour cela de nombreuses écoles pour filles. Une institution qui joua un rôle important dans l'éducation féminine fut l'Ecole des Filles de Sidon (Sidon Girls' School) fondée en 1862. Dans les années 1920, la Mission y mit en œuvre ce qu'elle appela un plan « révolutionnaire » instituant un programme d'économie domestique qui allait faire la réputation de l'école dans le contexte des institutions de formation au Moyen Orient. Le présent article analyse l'héritage du programme d'économie domestique à la Sidon Girls' School et soulève des questions plus larges en relation à l'éducation de style américain importée au Moyen Orient. Les missionnaires s'enthousiasmèrent pour l'enseignement « progressiste » et moderne qu'ils offraient dans leurs écoles, ignorant apparemment l'existence de cours d'économie domestique déjà offerts par les gouvernements locaux et autres écoles privées. L'article explore comment la « nouvelle » formation offerte à Sidon était le reflet des tendances de l'éducation féminine aux Etats-Unis et comment les missionnaires tentèrent de transférer ces concepts. Il montre en outre quand et comment le message missionnaire se perdit dans cet effort de traduction, et comment les diplômées de l'école le subvertirent.


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