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Women, Protestant Missions, and American Cultural Expansion, 1800 to 1938: A Historiographical Sketch

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Over the past forty years, historians' descriptions of American women missionaries have ranged from martyrs to cultural imperialists to social activists engaged with real people around the world to promote the welfare of women and children. New transnational approaches to the study of American missions abroad demonstrate that women missionaries were not a stock homogeneous group but a diverse group of individuals engaged in complex encounters with an equally diverse group of people in multiple settings. As scholars have highlighted the contributions of women missionaries to the projection of American Protestantism across the globe, they have increasingly recognized the importance of the cross-cultural connections that have given new meanings to the Protestant messages in local environments. This essay reviews the scholarship of the last forty years and indicates new avenues of research on American Protestant women in mission.

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