A book containing journal entries and correspondence about her experiences and work written by medical missionary, Dr. Clara Swain, upon her arrival in 1870 in Bareilly, India, and the 35 years following.
Why It Matters
As a woman, Swain was allowed to interact with women who observe purdah [the practice of concealing women and segregating them from men]. As a doctor, she was able to provide them with much-needed medical treatment. However, she also spent time with them in other ways: some girls were trained as her assistants and others she either visited at their homes or came to visit her. While Swain was a medical missionary, she was able to gain a better understanding of not only local medical practices, but also social and religious customs.
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Analyze this evidence
- What does Swain’s account tell you about the life of purdah women? How do you think the women felt about her and other missionaries?
- Why does Swain, an educated white woman from the United States, compare her Indian women patients to "shy kittens" and "little children"? Do you think this this a fair description? Why or why not?
- In what ways other than medical treatment do you think the missionaries may have helped "purdah" women?
- Why do you think it was important for the husbands and other men to be supportive of the missionaries’ work?