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Making Sense of Martha: Single Women and Mission Work

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For more content, please see Le Fait Missionnaire.

Although there is a large, sophisticated literature on gender and mission work, single women still remain on the periphery of those studies. Through the case of Martha L. Moors, a single American missionary working in Portuguese West Africa (Angola today) in the 1920s, this essay offers an examination of how the two identities of 'single woman' and 'missionary' affected mission culture and work. Single women occupied a tenuous position, as they were often called upon to instruct non-Christian women on the principles of Christian marriage and motherhood. Moors' writings allow for an intimate consideration of how single women fit into mission culture and their reflections of how they serve the missions. Single women had to support the missions in ways that exemplified Christian femininity while lacking the validity of being wives and mothers. Quoique les études sur le genre et la mission soient nombreuses et sophistiquées, les travaux portant sur des femmes célibataires restent marginaux. En étudiant la trajectoire de Martha L. Moors, une missionnaire américaine célibataire ayant travaillé dans les années 1920 en Afrique de l'Ouest Portugaise (aujourd'hui Angola), cet article se penche sur la façon dont les catégories identitaires de « femme célibataire » et de « missionnaire » ont influé sur la culture et le travail des missions. Les femmes célibataires occupaient une place précaire dans la mesure où elles étaient souvent appelées à enseigner à des femmes non-chrétiennes les principes chrétiens du mariage et de la maternité. Les écrits de Moors nous offrent témoignage intime sur l'insertion des femmes célibataires dans la culture de la mission et sur leurs réflexions quant au meilleur moyen de servir celle-ci. Les femmes célibataires devaient soutenir l'effort missionnaire en devenant des exemples de féminité chrétienne tout en ne pouvant pas se prévaloir de la qualité d'épouse et mère.


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