In this paper, I use hospital reports, technical writings, and photographs to reconstruct the daily work of Chinese women doctors in the Hackett Medical Complex, a leading missionary institution for women’s medicine in Guangzhou (Canton). I ask three questions: 1) What were the inner workings of the institution that inform us about the lives of women practicing medicine? 2) The channels of knowledge transmission: how did Chinese women become acquainted with “Western medicine,” the knowledge and techniques which were translated into textual, verbal, and visual forms? 3) The narrative of historical writing. As is often the case in historical research, the absence of women’s voices in the archival materials makes writing their history a difficult task. When the women doctors lived out these conditions rather than writing about them, how do we recapture a history of practice at the distance of centuries? In sum, I propose a new analytical strategy to write a history of Chinese women doctors: examining what the women doctors did, in addition to what they represented.
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