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Pilgrim Path: The First Company of Women Missionaries to Hawaii.

The earliest Congregational missionaries to Hawaii have been alternately praised for their mission work and condemned for their cultural chauvinism. Pilgrim Path succeeds where others have failed. Avoiding the antimissionary bias of twentieth-century relativism, yet refusing to slide into hagiography, the book reveals the key role played by missionary women in the conversion of Hawaii. Zwiep has written an engaging and scholarly narrative that takes the religious context of the missionaries seriously, yet also wrestles with the cultural changes brought by Christianization. Drawing upon the journals and letters of the first seven missionary women, she has produced a solid piece of mission history about a group whose work was historically significant but has been caricatured in modern literature.

The themes addressed by Zwiep are central to mission history: the theology and motivations of the missionaries, the contours of daily life, missionary views of Hawaiian culture, the conflict between domestic concerns and missionary vocation, dynamics within the mission community, and interaction with other Westerners. The most exciting aspect of the book is that Zwiep does justice to the relationships between missionary and Hawaiian women. She shows how women's work and friendship, coupled with indigenous needs, led to the conversion of the leading female chiefs, who in turn evangelized their people.

The journals and letters of the missionary wives demonstrate how they dealt with similar problems in different ways, and how the choice of spouse and mission station affected their courses of action. Sybil Bingham, stationed at Honolulu and married to the head of the mission, found her time devoured by hordes of visitors. Lucy Thurston, in a relatively isolated post, was the only wife able to educate her own children rather than send them back to America. The theology of Mercy Whitney sustained her through a lifetime of hardship, whereas Lucia Holman's desire for a comfortable life made her unfit for mission work. Pilgrim Path, in short, is a valuable addition to women's studies as well as to American mission history.
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Author:Robert, Dana L.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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