Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Adrienne Petty

Committee Members

Joshua Hubbard

Leisa Meyer


This thesis examines the transnational activities of American Protestant female medical missionaries to China from 1880 to 1930. Through an analysis of missionary writings, this thesis argues that female medical missionaries, as ambassadors of cultural imperialism, played an equally important role as medical professionals. Aiming to convert people in foreign lands to both evangelical culture and western medical approaches, they constituted a distinctive group of transnational professional women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Responding to both a religious call and professional opportunities, these women doctors went to China with a vision of improving Chinese women’s life through Christian conversion and scientific medical treatment. They drew authority from, and channeled cultural influences through, their medical expertise. Meanwhile, local women took advantage of the medical treatment while rejecting missionaries’ many efforts to change their day-to-day practices. Female medical missionaries’ professional work also engendered contradictions to the mission and brought them new understandings of Chinese culture. Addressing the insufficient scholarly attention to female medical missionaries, this thesis illuminates the usefulness and limits of cultural imperialism as a framework for interpreting female medical missionaries. It also contributes to a better understanding of professionalism as a critical aspect of both the cultural expansion of American empire and the international dimension of women’s history.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

On-Campus Access Only