The Zenana Missionary Society

Zenana (Persian: زنانه, Urdu: زنانہ), refers to that part of a house belonging to a Muslim family in the Middle East and/or South Asia that is reserved for women.

How and why do I get myself involved with these things? Being an honest, up-standing cook of mature (though still less than 51) years, this caught my attention and has gripped me for days! Beware ye righteous feminists out there, this will raise your hackles . . . 

The Zenana Missionary Society is/was an evangelical movement that was conceived and organised in Britain with the objective of converting Indian women in their own homes.

The imperial design was to win over the women, both culturally and religiously, by giving them a western style education  at home.

It was planned that the women missionary teachers should visit the homes of ordinary Indian/Muslim women and to give them the breadth of the English education that would enable them to question the validity of their heathen beliefs and anti-social social practices.

The Zenana are the inner apartments of a house in which the women of the family live. The outer apartments dedicated to guests and men is called the Mardana.

The Zenana missionaries were women who went into the homes of ordinary Indian/Asian women with the aim of converting them to Christianity.

The Baptist Missionary Society inaugurated Zenana missions in the early 19th century and the concept was later taken up by other churches and other countries.

By the 1880’s, the “Zenana Missions” had added medical work to their ministry to encourage conversions and became the ‘Zenana Bible and Medical Mission’

Sexist? Yes

Pedantic? Yes

Derogatory? Yes

Just how patronising can you be? It is, even now, a ‘given’ that Eastern women are far less well educated than their male counterparts.

This volume was assimilated somewhere around the early decades of the last century to be sold to British women to produce the funds to finance the missionary work.

Sadly, a lot of its assumptions still exist today!

Did I say I was not going to comment? Then I shall refrain : with misgivings!

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