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Letter written by Dr. Mary Bruins Allison to her family during the early months of her career as a medical missionary, describing her first case.

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" “Why I Want to Go to Arabia”: Early Medical Missionaries in the Middle East "

Mary Bruins Allison graduated in 1932 from Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Mary had dreamed of becoming a missionary, but because she was a woman, could not become a minister. Instead, she chose to become a doctor, inspired by stories she heard at church and from her family. She studied Arabic from 1933-34 at Hartford Theological School in preparation of her missionary life. In 1934, she did her second internship at the University of Illinois at Chicago because her first internship had not included obstetrics, which she needed in her career as a medical missionary in the Middle East. In 1934,Dr. Allison traveled to Kuwait to work as a doctor. She made house calls to women who were ill and eventually ran a women’s clinic. She treated women of all social classes. Dr. Allison wrote letters home, and in her later years composed a memoir about the time she spent as a medical missionary in Kuwait.

When Dr. Allison first arrived in Kuwait, she spent much of her time learning Islamic and Arabic culture, and did not do a great deal of medical work. However, she worked closely with a male doctor, Dr. Myrlea, who sent her to visit the sheikh’s wife when she was ill, as the sheikh's wife did not want a male doctor. Dr. Allison describes some of the difficulties of treating purdah (the practice of concealing women and segregating them from men) women and also the difficulties of navigating a new culture.

Creator: Allison, Mary Bruins, 1903-

Language: english

Item Number: a215_227_hipaa

Pages: 1

Size: 22.4 x 28.4cm

Physical Collection: Papers of Mary Bruins Allison, M.D., 1934-1985, ACC-215

Finding Aid:

Link to OPAC Record:

Cite this source: Title of document, date. Early Medical Missionaries in the Middle East: Why I Want to Go to Arabia. Doctor or Doctress?: Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians. The Legacy Center, Drexel University College of Medicine Archives & Special Collections. Philadelphia, PA. Date of access.

Allison, Mary Bruins, 1903-

Women in missionary work


Muslim women

Missionaries, Medical--Kuwait

Kuwait--Social life and customs