Religion, Gender and Education: Missionary Childhoods in Jamaica, 1800–70

Friday, January 3, 2014: 3:10 PM
Columbia Hall 10 (Washington Hilton)
Mary Clare Martin, University of Greenwich
Despite increasing interest in missionaries and their families, little research exists on missionaries’ children, and even less on Jamaica. While Catherine Hall’s pioneering work focused on early nineteenth century Baptist missionaries, her primary focus was on relations of gender, class and race, and connections between colony and metropole, rather than on childhood or “age”. Through the lens of missionary children’s experiences, this paper will examine the implications of having a transatlantic identity and the connections between Jamaica and Britain. It will draw on missionary memoirs, letters, and records of schools attended by missionaries’ children, founded in Walthamstow, Essex in England, in1838 and 1842. 

Whereas Hall (2003) emphasised the contradictions between the missionary dream and disillusionment after emancipation, micro-studies of missionary communities suggest different narratives. The paper will  refer, not only to missionaries  from the well-documented Baptist network, but also the Methodists, exemplified by Samuel Shipman, son of Wesleyan missionaries subject of The Missionary’s Child(1841) , and also of Anglican clergy.   

Despite Hall’s emphasis on differentiated gender roles, mothers’ and daughters’ education was considered very important within the Baptist mission community.  Mrs Henderson was commended in print by her husband for teaching the Sunday school from  8.a.m. and for taking her four very small children with her. Rebecca Wray, who also had a training in midwifery,  ran a fee-paying girls’ school which paid for her own children’s education, and her daughters worked in the school on return from England from 1829. One of missionary William Knibb’s daughters married Ellis Fray, a “coloured” minister, and their mixed race children attended her alma mater, the  Girls’ Mission school,  from 1871.  Such connections call in question the arguments that missionary communities maintained rigid hierarchies of race and gender.