The Women of Christ Church: Work, Literature and Community in Nineteenth-Century Jerusalem

  • Billie Melman


The work of evangelical women in nineteenth-century Palestine was very much like their work at home: not easily definable; relative to men’s work; unpaid and informal.1 Women’s labour in God’s vineyard developed outside the metropolitan centres of evangelical politics and therefore was not directly controlled by the bigger missions. The first career missionaries arrived in the Middle East only in 1887, the second generation of proselytisers. Their predecessors, the millenarian evangelisers active in the middle decades of the century, had built the foundations for a ‘professional’ work. Missionary work, then, manifests the same characteristics as the new specialist work thriving in the new scientific organisations. But unlike these organisations, the British missions were reluctant to employ women. To be sure, there had always been a place for the missionaries’ wives or daughters. Single men could easily be corrupted in exotic, permissive societies. So wives served not only as help-mates and home-makers but were bulwarks against temptation.2 Single women, however, were an altogether different matter. Clearly the evangelical ideology of work in and for, the non Christian ‘world’, clashed with the bourgeois sense of propriety.


Middle East Single Woman Gender Ideology Jewish Woman Domestic Life 
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  1. 3.
    Eugene Stock, The History of the Church Missionary Society (London, 1897) vol. 2, pp. 397–400.Google Scholar
  2. 25.
    James Finn, Stirring Times, or Records from Jerusalem Consular Chronicles of 1853 to 1856, 2 vols (London, 1878) p. 191.Google Scholar

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© Billie Melman 1992

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  • Billie Melman

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