The making of womanhood by missionary enterprise in Republican China

Creator: White, William Charles, 1873-1960.  Taken on November 4, 2011 by Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library on flickr

The long tradition of sex segregation in China opened the field for female missionaries at the turn of the twentieth century. Mission-run girls’ schools, hospitals and publishing ventures for women were environments where many Chinese women first encountered Western ideas. This interaction was initially dominated by foreign missionaries but later shifted to local converts. Meanwhile foreign missionaries and early twentieth-century Chinese women found themselves inevitably being involved in heated debates over the idea of a new woman. Women’s roles and spheres were constantly questioned, challenged and redefined by Chinese intellectuals.

This paper examines four Christian women’ magazines including the longest running woman magazine in modern Chinese history, Woman’s Messenger, with an aim to extract a concept of womanhood by missionary enterprise through presenting the process of the making of womanhood. It is especially interesting to look at the articles by Chinese Christian women since literary work transformed them from subjects to producers. Questions such as what kind of womanhood did each of these magazines build and how did evangelical propaganda deal with Chinese society will be considered. Special attention is paid to the existence of the concept of a universal womanhood that transcends time and space. I propose there exists a core concept of womanhood shared by these Christian woman magazines. The importance of this research is two-fold. It is the first attempt to conduct a systemic study of womanhood by evangelical propaganda in Republican China. It also augments the histories of foreign female missionaries and of Chinese Christian women.

About the speaker

Yun Zhou was awarded a Bachelor of Japanese from East China Normal University in 2009 and later received her Master of Arts and Sciences (Information Studies) from the University of Tokyo in 2011. Her previous work focused on the religious practice and identities of overseas Chinese Christians in Chiba, Japan. Yun commenced her PhD at ANU in March 2014 where she is examining women’s magazines published by missionaries in Shanghai in the first half of the twentieth century. In particular, her research focuses on how Christian women’s magazines shaped an ideal of womanhood.


Yun Zhou

Dates & times

Friday, 5 December 2014

4.15pm - 5.15pm


Updated:  6 October 2016/Responsible Officer:  Director/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team