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Women missionaries on Methodist Overseas Missions, Northern District, Arnhem Land, 1950-1980

posted on 08.02.2017, 04:56 by Baker, Gwenda
Women missionaries on Methodist Overseas Missions in the North Australia District of Australia made a significant but generally unacknowledged contribution to the work of the missions. The Church recruited women as nurses and teachers and many others accompanied their husbands to the mission field. Women missionaries were questioned on their religious beliefs and had to pass a medical examination before acceptance. The standard missionary training was at All Saints College, but many missionaries entered through other ways and received a variety of training. The women missionaries participated to some extent in the cultural disintegration of Aboriginal culture by the juxtaposition of their own materialistic white culture, the acceptance of poorly paid Aboriginal labour, and their participation in professional roles that brought about social change. They were not actively involved in discipline measures. Women were effectively excluded from the areas of policy making and administration. The gender hierarchy operating at all levels of mission operations placed women subordinate to men. Wives were not given the status of missionaries but they were expected to take on a number of secular and religious roles. Single women were at the bottom of the gender hierarchy unless they stayed a very long time and developed a strong professional role. Women missionaries faced challenges on personal, physical, professional and religious levels. They derived a great deal of satisfaction from their work and relationships with Aborigines, particularly Aboriginal women. They managed to gain a measure of empowerment through their work, their relationships, their spiritual growth and an understanding of Aboriginal culture.


Principal supervisor

Marian Quartly

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Centre of Women's Studies

Campus location



Faculty of Arts