IJIMT 2010 Vol.1(2): 147-151  ISSN: 2010-0248
DOI: 10.7763/IJIMT.2010.V1.27

Pioneer Woman Physician as Medical Missionary to the Women of the Orient Clara A. Swain, M. D (1834-1910)

Marthal Nalini

Abstract—The nineteenth Century inaugurated a new era in the history of medical missions in India. From the beginning medical work was recognized as an important means of evangelism. It was the door of approach, and often the “most effectual”, door of approach to the heart of the patient and the necessary embodiment of spirit of Christianity whose founder Himself was a great healer. Medical work for women in non-Western societies was initially tentative and experimental in nature. It grew as an offshoot of missionaries organizing children’s schools, holding sewing and literacy classes for women, and zenana-visiting, and the missionary women relied for their prescriptions on medical handbooks and commonsense. Even after professionally qualified female physicians began working in India in the 1870’s, medical work in cross cultural contexts offered many challenges. This article is a cross-cultural study of the work of North American missionary woman physician Clara A. Swain who was sent overseas by the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The objective of this article is to examine the life and work of Clara, and the processes by which her initiatives expanded from little dispensary to become a hospital with training classes for assistants, midwives, and medical support staff. It also highlights some of the early challenges that Clara faced in dealing with the paucity of resources, issues of local culture,and indigenous resistance as she sought to combine her goal of evangelism with professional aspirations in a culture that resisted both Christianity and Western the rape tics. The early growth of the Institution founded by Clara enables one to remap the problematic issue of gender and culture. Clara Swain Hospital for Women, the first of its kind for the whole of Asia, grew out of Clara’s medical class that began with 14 girls in 1870, and this institution still exists in India. She started medical missionary work for women in a region where there were no precedents for such work, yet she chose very different paths to do so.

Index Terms—India, medical, mission, women.

Dr. Mrs. Marthal Nalini is working as Associate Professor in the Department of History, Tourism and Travel Management, Ethiraj Collegefor Women, Chennai, (India) for the past 27 years(e-mail: nalini_barnabas@yahoo.co.in).

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Cite: Dr. Mrs. Marthal Nalini, " Pioneer Woman Physician as Medical Missionary to the Women of the Orient Clara A. Swain, M. D (1834-1910)," International Journal of Innovation, Management and Technology vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 147-151, 2010.

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