From India via Basel to the Gold Coast - The Basel Women’s Mission in the nineteenth century
Paper submitted by Ulrike Sill, lic. theol., Deggingen, Germany (Part I of the joint paper with Sara Janner) Title
I. Reaching Out Summary: From its foundation in the year 1841 the history of the women’s mission (Frauenverein/ Women’s association) in Basel was closely related to that of the Basel Mission. Both organisations were what is now characterised as ”trans-cultural”. Unlike the Basel Mission during the first few decades after its foundation the Basel women’s mission faded into insignificance. Focusing on the different geographical regions where both organisations were active will in turn foreground different factors, which were relevant for the history of the women’s mission. The section on ”India and Basel” will indicate, how it was related to the activities of other missionary societies and to a broader discourse. The second section briefly will show that even in an area, where the Basel women’s mission was among the first to engage in this line of missionary activity, i.e. on the Gold Coast, it had some success. Finally in the third section coming back to Basel I’ll try to contextualise the women’s mission with some aspects of the general organisational history of the Basel Mission. At the end stands the conclusion that the all male home-board, the Committee, of the Basel Mission and its ideas of gender roles played a crucial role for the women’s mission, not least because most of the members of the women’s mission’s committee belonged to the families of these leading men.
First I would like to clarify my own point of departure. Currently I am working on a doctoral thesis focused on women in and around the Basel Mission on the 19th century Gold Coast. To be able to contextualise this it was necessary to look at the Basel women‟s mission and its concept,
structures and development. And looking at these topics leads one to make observations that lead, in turn, to a number of further questions. The first women‟s missionary society had been established in London in 1834: the ”Society for Promoting Female Education in the East”, or Female Education Society (FES). Women‟s mission then was closely linked with girls‟ education and the female missionaries sent out by the Education Society were all teachers. In 1841 Wilhelm Hoffmann, the then director of the Basel Mission (”Inspektor”, in German), published an appeal to women in Germany and Switzerland to establish a women‟s mission in Basel, too. The same year the ”Women‟s association for (propagating) female education in the pagan countries” (”Frauenverein für weibliche Erziehung in den Heidenländern” 1), was established there. To avoid confusion, I‟d like to make two brief comments on the title of the organisation. First: In the sources one occasionally comes across another title namely Frauengesellschaft (”Women‟s society”). But as the title used in the journal published by the Women‟s society throughout the 19 th century was Frauenverein (”Women‟s Association”), that is the term I‟ll use here. 2 Second: The term ”Verein” (association) in the context of the Basel Mission is ambiguous, since it can refer to an organisationally independent association, as well as to an auxiliary. The Frauenverein (Women‟s Association) in turn was both, one after the other, but the shift was gradual. In the minutes of the Basel Mission‟s Committee (home board) one comes across references to the association‟s original independence, but how far it was „really‟ ever independent can be seen as a matter of debate. That is another reason, why I prefer the term ”association”/ ”Verein”, it reflects some of the ambiguities and complexities one faces when looking at the organisation. In the women‟s mission a specific concept of gender relations and especially of femininity held a crucial position. This circled around the concept of woman‟s ”natural”, or, indeed, ”divine” vocation as wife and mother. This concept of Christian femininity claimed universal validity, so the women‟s mission‟s purpose was to propagate this concept and the norms inherent in it. Through education non-Christian women were to be ”liberated” from what was seen as their ”slavery”. Thus women in Central Europe gathered to support and propagate a concept and norms that they perceived as having universal truth claims, though in hindsight the ideas involved can be identified as arising in a specific situation in central-European history. This has caused some authors, in recent analysis, to apply epithets like ”colonial” or ”imperialistic” to the women‟s mission based in this region at that time. For several reasons the approach indicated
The publications of the women‟s society use the term “Frauenverein”, the minutes of the Basel Mission‟s Committee (home board) often refer to the “Frauengesellschaft”. 2 On its re-inception in 1901 it was named the Basel Mission‟s women‟s association.
by the title of the conference ”Imperial culture” seems more fitting to me, not least (to be a stickler for detail, if you like) because the Basel Mission up to mid 1880s was not working as a colonial mission in the narrow sense, but in colonial contexts first in India and gradually on the Gold Coast. The concept of ”liberation” as an objective of the women‟s mission assumes a duty of Christian women in Europe towards non-Christian women overseas. The perception of those women overseas as ”slaves” carried an implicit appeal if one set it against what were seen as Christian norms for a humane life. But of course there was and is no such thing as one single concept of freedom within Christianity, or a consensus about the way to freedom, and about its importance. Peter Haenger‟s research into slavery and the Basel Mission on the Gold Coast amply shows, that even within the context of one single missionary society there were debates and conflict about this issue, not to speak of the conflicts with the ”objects” of the missionary endeavours, i.e. the people and societies on the Gold Coast 3.
1. The beginnings – India and Basel In 1834 the Basel Mission began its work in Southern India after the endeavours in the Russian Empire and in Persia (Iran) had had to be given up, 4 and the first attempts at mission on the Gold Coast had proved to be difficult because of the high mortality rate. On the other hand a large number of missionaries trained in Basel had been taken over by the Church Missionary Society and sent out to its fields in India5. From 1834, following a change in the legal position of non-British missionary societies in India, the Basel Mission itself began independent work in South India6. And it is there that it developed many of the organisational structures and ”Ordnungen”/ ”Regulations”, which later on were to be applied to other regions of the world where it operated. In 1838 the first Indian General Conference of the Basel Mission was held in Mangalore, because the expanding work needed a more developed structure7; and its report was sent to Basel for approval by the Committee (home board). The Indian Mission field of the Basel Mission had – as far as European staff was concerned – up to then been an all male
Haenger, Peter, Sklaverei und Sklavenemanzipation an der Goldküste. Ein Beitrag zum Verständnis von sozialen Abhängigkeitsbeziehungen in Westafrika, Basel 1997. 4 Waldburger, Andreas, Missionare und Moslems. Die Basler Mission in Persien 1833-1837, Basel o.J. 5 Paul Jenkins lists their number up to 1835 as 16, and between 1836 and 1840 another 11 Basel trained missionaries were sent out to India by the CMS. (Jenkins, Paul, The Church Missionary Society and the Basel Mission: An Early Experiment in Inter-European Cooperation, S. 43-65. in: Ward, Kevin and Stanley, Brian (Ed.), The Church Mission Society and World Christianity, 1799-1999, Grand Rapids and Cambridge 2000, here p.45). 6 On the Basel Mission in India see the forthcoming PhD by Michael Graebsch. 7 About the role of the Caucasus and Persian mission-field with respect to the development of the first organisational structures cf. Waldburger (Fn. 4).
enterprise. Among the many topics discussed by the 1838 General Conference in Mangalore was the need for women as missionary wives, who could work among the Indian women, the necessity for girls‟ schools to educate future Christian wives for the new Christians, and as a staff matter the recruitment of Hermann Gundert. He brought his wife along with him – Julie Dubois, a female missionary with some experience in teaching girls, who was according to one source connected to the Female Education Society via its Geneva auxiliary. She founded the first girls‟ school of the Basel Mission. though looking at the context of the Basel Mission in Southern India it is clear that other missionary societies already had girls‟ schools and institutes there8. The Basel Mission‟s work in India was thus expanding, and new resources were needed, when Wilhelm Hoffmann was appointed Inspektor (director) in 1840. In 1842 he published a pamphlet about the Basel Mission in which he addressed this situation, stating the opportunities which this missionary society had, but stressing the financial means needed if these opportunities were to be taken. From his point of view gaining new financial support meant looking beyond the already existing basis of supporters in the revivalist and pietist milieu mainly in Southern and Southwestern Germany. It meant gaining the interest and support of the broader public of the protestant, established/territorial churches, the Landeskirchen in Germany and the Kantonalkirchen in Switzerland 9. At the end of the pamphlet he listed specific target groups as sources of new financial support: pastors, teachers, women and – as far as the general public was concerned - especially the young men and the (male) heads of family (”Familienväter”). Even before writing the pamphlet on the Basel Mission he had in 1841, published the appeal to the women in Germany and Switzerland to establish a women‟s mission. This appeal can be seen as a case in point. Hoffmann himself mentioned it in the 1842 pamphlet in the context of other publications by the Basel Mission. In the appeal he largely referred to Anglophone publications on the subject of the situation of Indian women, presented the initiatives of other missionary societies in India as proof that such work was already being done and done successfully, and introduced the Female Education Society not only as a model for the
The London Missionary Society since 1819 in Nagercoil begun by Johanna Mead, cf. R.J. Hepzi Joy, History and Development of Education of Women in Kerala (1819-1947), 1995, p.61-62. The Church Missionary Society since 1820 in Kottayam begun by Amelia Baker, cf.: R.J. Hepzi Joy, History and Development of Education of Women in Kerala (1819-1947), 1995, p.104-108; and Murray, Jocelyn, The Role of Women in the CMS, 1799-1917, in: Stanley, Brian and Ward, Kevin, The Church Mission Society and World Christianity, 1799-1999, Grand Rapids 2000, p. 66-90, p.73-74. 9 The time he spent as a supervisor of studies (”Repetent”) in the protestant seminary in Tübingen (and as a colleague of David Friedrich Strauss!), as well as his interest in geography may have helped to achieve this.
future Frauenverein (Women‟s Association) in Basel, but also as a source for financial support and partner in future co-operation 10. In several ways, therefore, India played a crucial role in the inception of the Basel women‟s missionary society: It offered a model, or viewed from another angle, it communicated impulses to engage in this line of work, since others were already doing so. So as the missionary enterprise of the Basel Mission in India expanded it created the necessity to look out for fresh resources and new ways of fund-raising and women‟s mission was one of them. The Female Education Society in London, which served as a model and with which cooperation was planned, was an interdenominational all- female society, headed by a committee of women, supported by female auxiliaries, who produced e.g. handicraft to be shipped to India and sold to British customers there. One of the auxiliaries of this British organisation was located in Geneva, another one in Strasbourg. The society was sending out female teachers, who worked either independently or as assistants to overburdened missionary wives. In the first 13 years of its existence more than 50 women were sent out 11. For those interested in the work of the society a newsletter was distributed. The impulse for its foundation, according to the history of the Society published in 1847, was a speech by the missionary David Abeel 12 and an ensuing appeal published by Rev. B.W. Noel 13. India and China were presented as future fields for female missionary activities. In Basel though, at that stage, it was India which was important, the activities in China were to begin in 1847. Accordingly the full title of Hoffmann‟s appeal reads ”The education of the female sex in India. An appeal to the Christian women in Germany and Switzerland” (”“Die Erziehung des weiblichen Geschlechts in Indien. Ein Aufruf an die christlichen Frauen Deutschlands und der Schweiz”14). As already mentioned it largely refers to the English-speaking discourse on the situation of the women in India; in which since the early 19th century topics like sati and female infanticide played an increasing prominent role15. Indeed in many ways the enterprise in Basel appears to be cut along the same pattern as the Female Education Society: It also was headed by an all female committee, though with two notable
The Female Education Society would have covered the travelling costs, the female missionaries sent out from Basel in turn would have sent reports about their work in English to London. Also like any agents of this society they had to remain unmarried and work as teachers overseas for five years. 11 Suter, Edward, History of the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East. Established in the Year 1834, London 1847.(British Library, Rara), S.258 12 David Abeel (1804-1846), pioneer US-American missionary to China. 13 Missionary Register 1834, p. 390-393. 14 Hoffmann, Wilhelm, Die Erziehung des weiblichen Geschlechts in Indien und den Heidenländern. Ein Aufruf an die christlichen Frauen Deutschlands und der Schweiz, 1. Aufl. Basel 1841. 15 Cf. Oddie, Geoffrey A., Missionaries as social commentators: The Indian case, in Bickers, Robert A. and Seton, Rosemary, Missionary Encounters. Sources and Issues, Richmond 1996, pp. 197-211, esp. 199-202 and 204-205; Dalmia-Lüderitz, Vasudha, Über die Verwendung der ‚Parliamentary Papers on Widow Immolation in India, 18211830„, in: Jones, Adam, Aussereuropäische Frauengeschichte, Pfaffenweiler 1990, pp.41-65.
exceptions, since the secretary (later the president) and the treasurer were always men. It was supported by auxiliaries. The women in the auxiliaries gathered to work on handicrafts for fundraising, they read the bible and missionary tracts and journals, and they sent an annual contribution to the main society, the Frauenverein, in Basel. From Basel they got information about missionary work. There was a printed publication (and one produced by lithography) reporting on the society‟s work among women in India or on the Gold Coast. Like its ”older sister” in London the aim was to propagate what was considered a Christian concept of femininity and the specific means to achieve it were girls‟ schools and institutes. So according to the 1841 appeal and the 1843 draft of its bylaws it aimed to send out female teachers and later to establish training colleges for female indigenous teachers overseas. One might assume that an enterprise like the Basel women‟s mission was likely to be a success, as it could tread paths that were in many ways already well trodden, as far as organisational structures, fund-raising efforts, extending its supporting circles and also the relationship with a broader public discourse was concerned. Instead a striking tension can be observed between the claims made in the 1841 appeal on the one hand and on the other hand the situation of the Frauenverein a bit more than a decade after its foundation. The 1853 appeal‟s third edition, like the first edition, stresses the importance of missionary work among women: Indeed, the concluding sentences stated, if there had to be a choice, whether missionary work would be done among men or among women, then one would have to opt for labouring among women...16 But after more than a decade not more than a handful of female missionaries had been sent out, the Verein was losing its organisational independence and was about to fade into being a quantité negligeable. As far as representation is concerned one gets the impression that it had a marginal role in what was considered the realm of the public and the official. For the researcher this is reflected in the non-availability or even inexistence of sources. They are scarce or it takes an extra effort and maybe some luck to locate them. The correspondence of the Frauenverein as yet could not be found, but thanks to the Mission 21 librarian Markus Buess at least now an almost complete set of one if its publications is available. Still the gaps in our knowledge of its history are considerable.
“... und hättet ihr die Wahl nur an eines der beiden Geschlechter ausschließlich euch zu wenden, und wären sie beide gleich zugänglich, so dürftet ihr selbst da, wo scheinbar das Weib nur der sklavische Schatten des Mannes ist, viel eher die Arbeit an dem Letztern aufschieben. Denn ihr könntet sicher hoffen, daß in langsamem, aber unausweichlichem Fortschritt auch die heidnische Männerwelt von den Kräften des Evangeliums ergriffen würde, wenn einmal der mütterliche Heimatboden von demselben durchdrungen wäre.” (Hoffmann, Aufruf, 3.Auflage, 1853, p.238).
What could be the reasons for the way the Frauenverein (women‟s association) dwindled into insignificance? Was it because from a local Basel or a regional Swiss, Southwestern German or Middle-European perspective there were reservations about an enterprise of this kind? But why, then, was the initiative to establish a women‟s association taken in the first place? Or was the problem a lack of clear success in the so-called mission fields? Was, indeed, the concept of femininity and/or the program of female education in its Basel form hard to implement overseas? The mission field which should have presented the greater challenge will have been the Gold Coast. In the hinterland in Akuapem the Basel Mission was the first to introduce an European-type education for girls, and on the coast together with the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society it was the first to provide such a type of education on a regular basis. 2. On the Mission-Field – the case of the Gold Coast The first girls‟ school of the Basel Mission on the then Gold Coast was the one started by Catherine Mulgrave-Thompson in Christiansborg in 1843/4417. She had been working at the Micoh Institute in Jamaica, and had come to West Africa in 1843 as the wife of the first African missionary of the Basel Mission, George Thompson, together with the group of West Indians recruited by the Basel Mission to settle in Ghana. She also gathered a group of older and younger women whom she ”instructed in Christianity” as one report put it. In 1849 the number of pupils in her school is listed as 70, though 10-12 of these rarely attended. The first girls‟ school in the hinterland, in Akuapem, was founded by Rosina Widmann-Binder, wife of the missionary Rev. Johann Georg Widmann, in Akropong in the year 1847, when she approached the Omanhene in Akropong and he agreed to send girls to her school. The first girl‟s boarding schools (Mädchenanstalten) developed out of those two schools: The Akropong school when it moved to Aburi in 1858. The Christiansborg school became a boarding school in 1854, and moved to Abokobi in 1860. There it existed until 1905, when it was closed, because the Basel Mission authorities thought it was not effective in achieving its purpose anymore. On the Gold Coast there were people interested in setting up girls‟ schools and boarding schools, but there was also resistance to such institutions as a whole or to specific features of them. And the local interest was not, of course, founded on the same motivation or followed the aims as the concept developed in Basel. To briefly mention three examples: The Omanhene18 in Akropong, who had sent girls to be educated by Rosina Widmann-Binder, a few years later
The Basel Mission‟s girls‟ school in Christiansborg is mentioned in January 1844 for the first time in the Basel Mission sources, so very likely it will have been founded late in 1843. 18 King, resp. head of an Akan state.
wanted to marry some of them himself and intended to marry off others to bridegrooms of his choice – and mostly this would mean placing the girls in polygynous marriages. This certainly was not what the Europeans involved in female education on the Gold Coast had had in mind as the future career of their young women, even though one comes across other cases, where the compatibility of polygyny and Christianity was a matter of debate 19. Later, in the debates about the girls‟ boarding schools around 1900 a statement is quoted from an unnamed Ghanaian pastor who admonished a reluctant female pupil, who apparently had not wanted to become ”a lady”. Again educating ”ladies” was definitely not the official policy of the Basel missionary female education. Or in some cases the young women themselves and/or their families drew on another of the norms set up by the European missionaries, i.e. that Christian girls should not marry pagan husbands, and sent a young woman to a girls‟ boarding school to get out of a marriage no longer desired.. Looking at the attendance at the girls‟ boarding schools after a first period in which a number of issues had to be negotiated between the Mission and its indigenous environment – a situation which was reflected in irregular attendance - reports both in Aburi and in Abokobi indicate, from the mid 1860s, that the number of applicants was greater than the number of vacant places. Financially since 1857 Aburi, later Abokobi also, was supported by a women‟s association in St. Petersburg, Russia. Hoffmann‟s strategy had paid off. Still requests from the Gold Coast for more professional female teachers, i.e. unmarried female missionaries, by Basel were not fulfilled. From 1860 until the mid 1880s not one unmarried female teacher was sent out from Basel to the Gold Coast. Why was ”Basel” reluctant, and whose reluctance was it exactly?
3. Back to Basel Right from the beginning the history of the Frauenverein (Women‟s Association) and that of the Basel Mission were closely linked. In his appeal Hoffmann suggested that the Frauenverein (Women‟s Association) should first send their teachers to stations of the Basel Mission, even if Hoffmann gives the impression that in principle the association was to remain at liberty to cooperate with any other missionary society. The term ”auxiliary to the protestant mission”, which he used in the appeal, is ambiguous enough: it could either refer to protestant missionary
The Basel mission‟s first convert was baptized with his two wives, cf. Peter Haenger (fn. 3); and the first Ghanaian missionary of the Basel Mission Rev. David Asante in one instance baptized a polygynous man and was rebuked for it cf. Abun-Nasr, Sonia, Afrikaner und Missionar.Die Lebensgeschichte von David Asante, Basel 2003. The official regulations for the congregations of the Basel Mission indeed mention the possibility of remaining in a polygynous marriage under certain circumstances and conditions.
endeavours in general, or it could refer to a specific missionary society. This ambiguity was reflected in the actually twofold co-operation, which the appeal proposed: Firstly there was cooperation with the London Female Education Society, and secondly there was co-operation with the Basel Mission. It already has been mentioned that the initiative to establish the Frauenverein (Women‟s Association) was connected with the need for further funding and broader support by the Basel Mission. In terms of initiative that missionary society played a key role in the foundation of the Frauenverein (Women‟s Association), but it also attempted to draw on the already-existing organisation and the available resources of the Female Education Society. An actual co-operation with the Female Education Society never was established. In the 2nd edition of the newsletter of the Frauenverein (Women‟s Association) in a general way reservations were mentioned, which would prevent actual co-operation with London, but no details are given beyond a vague reference to ”obligations”, which the association felt it was not able to enter. The most likely cause of hesitation appears to be the obligation of any female missionary, whose travelling costs were paid by London, to remain unmarried and work in her profession for five years. If she failed to fulfil these conditions, she had to re-compense the Female Education Society. And when the first female missionary sent out from Basel to India married a Basel missionary not even two years after she had arrived at her post, re-compensation from her side was not asked for and the regulations of the Frauenverein (Women‟s Association) did not include this provision. Among the members of the Basel Mission Committee there had been discussion about the obligation on the future female teachers to remain unmarried for five years even before the Frauenverein was founded, and members of the Committee had already had some reservations about this. So it may be worthwhile to have a look at the organisational relationship between the two societies and see how it is related to the Basel Mission‟s general history. Of the first women‟s committee all of the thirteen women had family ties with and seven even were married to a member of the Basel Mission‟s Committee (home board) 20. When in 1843 the first secretary of the Frauenverein (Women‟s Association) resigned, the Basel Mission‟s Commitee decided his successor should be chosen from among themselves. Even though a number of women from the Frauenverein (Women‟s Association)‟s committee favoured another candidate, the Basel Mission‟s Committee insisted on having Rev. Adolf Sarasin-Forcart elected as the new president of the Frauenverein (Women‟s Association). 21 The
For details cf. Sara Janner‟s paper. 21 Cf. the minutes of the Basel Mission‟s Committee which report that Hoffmann was present at a meeting of the Frauenverein, where a desire for a broader scope of action had been brought forward. Also when Hoffmann introduced the Committee‟s interest that one of its own member‟s should be elected as the new president of the Frauenverein, some women did not agree: “Mehrere Frauen äußerten: es müßte nicht gerade ein Mitglied der Comité
same year Wilhelm Hoffman wrote a draft for the bylaws of the association, clearly stating that it was to be an auxiliary society to the Basel Mission. The minutes of the Committee mention that the draft was accepted by the Frauenverein with only few alterations, what those were is nowhere detailed in the sources. So it remains a matter of uncertainty whether the women‟s committee willingly accepted the status of an auxiliary or not. In 1853 under Wilhelm Hoffm ann‟s successor, Joseph Josenhans, the relationship with the Frauenverein was again on the agenda of the Basel Mission‟s Committee. Sarasin-Forcart – still the association‟s president – referred to the former organisational independence of the Frauenverein, which necessarily had led to some friction in former days, but that by the present time the women had shown reputable zeal and supported all the girls‟ boarding schools, so it would be to the disadvantage of the Basel Mission, if the women were to be discouraged by being ”reduced to a mere auxiliary”... He suggested that in the future the two committees should negotiate decisions and that the female teachers should be under the control of the ”station conferences”, i.e. the decision-making body „on the spot‟ consisting of all the European male missionaries 22 of one mission station. When, however, in 1861 the Basel Mission‟s Committee decided to replace the headmistress of the Aburi girls‟ boarding school, no consultations with the Frauenverein are mentioned in the minutes. And when in 1877 Sarasin-Forcart resigned from his post as president of the Frauenverein, no reference to this and the subsequent choice of a successor is to be found in the index of the Committee minutes under the heading of ”Frauenverein” (Women‟s Association) and the like. On its re-inception in 1901 in the first report of the ”Basel Mission‟s association for women‟s mission” its history was summarised: The ”old” Frauenverein as such for many years had not had any influence on the missionary work among women, but still was a source of financial support for the girls institutes of the Basel Mission... 23. In the context of the organisational history of the Basel Mission the shift from being an independent, if in many ways closely related organisation, to an auxiliary, can be seen as part of a broader development. In 1839 Wilhelm Hoffmann assumed his office as Inspektor (director), which he held until 1850. In retrospect in his he described the change from his predecessor and first Inspektor (director), Blumhardt, to himself. Hoffmann portrayed the Basel Mission in its
seyn, sondern nur Jemand der so nahe als möglich an der Missionssache stünde. (Sie meinten Hr Cand. Ostertag). Damit wurde die Unterredung abgebrochen...” 22 „European‟ in those days in the Basel Mission‟s terminology actually meant „trained in Europe‟ and included also a few missionaries of African descent. The most famous would be David Asante, cf. Abun-Nasr, Sonia, Afrikaner und Missionar.Die Lebensgeschichte von David Asante, Basel 2003. 23 In the first “Bericht des Basler Vereins für Frauenmission” in 1901: “... hat als Verein seit vielen Jahren keinen unmittelbaren Einfluß auf die Mission an dem weiblichen Geschlecht in der Heidenwelt mehr gehabt. Der Basler Frauenverein hat zwar sein Jahresfest gefeiert, es erschienen jährlich seine Schreiben mit einem kurzen Bericht über die Mädchenanstalten der Basler Mission, und einige treue Freundinnen setzten seine Kollekte für eben jene Anstalten fort und führten dadurch der Missionskasse eine willkommene Einnahme zu.”
founding stages under Blumhardt as centred on the person of this first Inspektor, whereas during his own, Hoffmann‟s, term of office the Committee would come into its proper position as leading authority together with the Inspektor. Hoffmann was using the term ”monarchy” as a key image to describe the continuity in the organisational set-up. He saw it as centred on one decisionmaking body, be it the Inspektor alone or the Committee and the Inspektor together. ”Monarchy” also alluded to the metaphor of the ”Kingdom of God” and hence served as a fitting image for a missionary society which was engaged in labouring for this kingdom. From a revivalist point of view this also would enhance the aspect of a personal relationship, the Kingdom of God comprising many aspects, but not usually being understood as a bureaucracy. Indeed Hoffmann was concerned to avoid the Basel Mission developing bureaucratic traits as larger missionary societies inevitably tended to do, even if it was expanding. It may be seen as ironic that during the days of his successor, Joseph Josenhans (Inspektor 1850-1875) exactly that happened. Against this background the history of the Basel women‟s mission can be read as one part of the story, how, in the context of the Basel Mission, the centre‟s authority was maintained by structures and not only through personal links. From the Committee‟s perspective it began with an agreed co-operation, relying on the personal relationship between the members of the Basel Mission‟s Committee and that of the Frauenverein, as some were spouses and others members of the same family. Gradually it developed into an auxiliary, which had less and less say in arranging the work it was supporting, and where finally the decision-making lay in the hands of the Basel Mission‟s Committee alone. This though only serves to shift the question to one about the Basel Mission‟s Committee and its reluctance to employ female teachers. What did they perceive the mission of women to be? Generally the Basel Mission expected the wives of the missionaries to participate in mission work, i.e. to give a living example of what was considered Christian femininity centred on the home and on family life24, but also to ”work among the local women”. In that context sending out unmarried teachers was also introduced as a necessity to help overburdened missionary wives. A publication on women‟s missionary activities in India by Martha Weitbrecht-Edwards, wife of a Basel trained CMS missionary, was translated into German by Albert Ostertag and published 1844. Ostertag incidentally was the candidate whom some of the women on the women‟s committee would have liked to see as their president in 1843, when the Basel Mission‟s Committee insisted on Sarasin-Forcart. In his preface Ostertag mentioned that the author would deal with both missionary roles, the missionary wife and the unmarried teacher, from his point of view both were engaged in missionary work. In relation to the Basel association, though, he pointed to the lack of unmarried female teachers, even three years after Hoffmann‟s appeal had
been published. Hinting at the simile of the labourers in the vineyard, he wrote that hundreds of teachers would be needed, but those hundreds would be standing idle on the market place waiting for a special, extraordinary vocation, whereas the Lord was issuing what Ostertag termed ”the ordinary vocation”! 25 From Ostertag‟s point of view working as an unmarried missionary teacher then was nothing extraordinary, but his remarks also show, that not everybody shared this view. What then in Basel was seen to be the ”women‟s mission”, how did it relate to what was considered women‟s vocation? What was female labour in the Lord‟s vineyard, and where was the workplace of such labourers? Looking at the sources, scarce as they may be, one gets the impression that in the context of the Basel Mission different people had divergent answers to those questions, but that the Committee as the main decision-making authority was at least very reluctant to have unmarried female teachers...
Cf. Konrad, Dagmar, Missionsbräute. Pietistinnen des 19.Jahrhunderts in der Basler Mission, Münster 2001. “Aber noch ist wenig gethan! Hunderte von Lehrerinnen wären nöthig und fänden volle Arbeit,- aber die Hunderte, ach sie stehen müßig in der Heimath am Markte, und warten auf besondere, außerordentliche Berufung, während der Herr in Seinem Worte vergebens die ordentliche Berufung an sie ergehen läßt!”
Paper by Sara Janner, lic. phil., Basel, Switzerland
Title Was the Patriciate's Perception of Womanhood the Reason Why the Foundation of an Independent Women's Mission Society for Female Education Failed in Basel?
Summary The paper proposes that the patriciate's perception of the role of women was an important reason why women failed to found an independent women's mission society for female education in Basel in 1841. The paper describes (1) the general situation of the so-called charitable women's association in Basel before 1850, and (2) studies the ties of kinship between the members of the committee in 1841 on the background of women's main competences in the Basel Mission during the 19th century and their social and legal status among the conservative patriciate in Basel.
Sources From the Staatsarchiv des Kantons Basel-Stadt, Basel: “Begrüßungs-Schreiben des Frauenvereins zu Basel für christliche weibliche Erziehung in der Heidenwelt an die theuren Hülfs-Vereine in Deutschland und der Schweiz. Basel im Juli 1841” Basler Adressbuch 1842 und 1845 Bürgerbuch der Bürgergemeinde Basel Leichenreden (obituaries) familiy trees From the Archiv of the Mission 21: Materials concerning the composition of the Basel Mission Committee between 1816 and 1916, collected by Waltraut Haas-Lill
Subject and Definitions
The paper I am presenting today poses the following question:
Was the Patriciate's perception of womanhood the reason why the foundation of an independent women's mission society for female education failed in Basel? I shall try to demonstrate that it was the ties of kinship between the committee of the women's association and the supervising male committee of the Basel Mission which hindered right from the beginning an independent development and activity from the part of the women's association. But first let me explain some important terms and concepts: A decisive role played the social and economic effects of the legal status of those women, the so-called "Geschlechtsvormundschaft". This "Geschlechtsvormundschaft" meant that in around 1841 women not only did not possess political rights, they were also considered to have no legal capacity, i.e. they were treated as minors. They could not conduct their own affairs, could not make contracts, not manage their own property, not even if they earned it themselves, without the consent of their male guardian, their "Vogt". When a woman got married, her husband took over the function as her "Vogt". This is called "Ehevogtei", matrimonial wardship. All members of the women's association for female education - the correct title of this association at the time of its foundation in 1841 was "Frauenverein zu Basel für christliche Mädchenerziehung in den Heidenländern", translated, Basel Women's Association for Christian Female Education in Heathen Countries" - all members were "Gemeindebürgerinnen", or as they used to call it then "Stadtbürgerinnen" of Basel, and they all belonged to the governing class of Basel, the "Stadtbürgertum". What are "Gemeindebürger" or "Stadtbürger"? The "Gemeindebürgerrecht, the legal status of a ”Gemeindebürger” is a Swiss peculiarity that still plays a very important role in Swiss politics. In order to be a Swiss citizen, you first have to belong to a "Gemeinde", an administrative unity, be that a village or a town. And it is completely in the competence of the "Gemeinden", who they want to accept. Neither the government of the canton nor that of Switzerland can influence these decisions. Children inherit the "Gemeindebürgerrecht" of their fathers. In 1841, when a woman got married to somebody who did not possess the "Gemeindebürgerrecht" of her own community, she automatically lost it herself, and, if her husbund did not buy her into his own "Gemeinde", became stateless. Now, in 1841, Switzerland was not yet the Federal state it became later. It was a confederation of states. And these states, the cantons, had their own laws, their own administration, army, borders and customs. There was no guaranteed right of free movement and free
settlement within the confederation, not even within the cantons. In Basel everybody who did not possess the "Bürgerrecht" of Basel was considered a foreigner. Foreigners had no political rights, if poor, they did not have to be supported, and they were subjected to divers economic and professional restrictions. The town was ruled by the top layer of the "Stadtbürgertum", the patriciate, about a dozen wealthy families. Some of these ruling families, or parts of them, belonged to the revivalist movement, the "Erweckungsbewegung", and that is why the revivalists had a great deal of influence at that time. An important part of the revivalist movement in Basel, but still older, is the ”Herrenhuter Brüdersozietät”. In English they are called Moravian Brothers, or Moravians. They form an international network of local communities on the Continent, in England, and the United States. The centre, and the oldest community is in Herrenhut, near Dresden, hence the name. The community was founded by Niclaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf around 1730, who gave the community its typical choir structure. The members are organized in separate choirs according to age, sex and state, that is, according to whether they are single, married, or widowed. This choir system diminishes the importance of the individual family as the central unit of the community's life. The different choirs have their own festivities and meetings and organize themselves. That also means that, in the 19th century, the Herrenhuter women had more freedom and were more independent than those of any other religious group in Basel. In the following I shall be using the German terms for these concepts. The definitions and explanations that I have just given are presented on the transparency.
Women's Associations in Basel before 1850
The women's mission society founded in 1841 is one of about 15 women's religious or charitable associations existing in Basel around 1840. But women's associations can be found earlier, they emerged, just like the Basel Mission Society, after the Napoleonic wars. All these women's associations concerned themselves with poor relief, kindergartens or girls' schools. And when the Basel Mission Seminary was founded, a first Women's Mission Association was founded, too, which delegated a male
representative to the male committee and helped the wife of the director keep house for the Mission Seminary and look after the pupils of the mission. Three of the members of the later women's association for female education were already members of this earlier association, which, at least in sources, disappeared again before 1841. These women's associations of around 1850 all belonged to the religiousecclesiastical milieu. The associations were either part of one of the four parishes of the town or had close links to the revivalist movement. The reason for the emergence of these poor relief and school societies in the protestant parishes of the town of Basel lies in the organization of poor relief and schools of that time: Both are, up to the second half of the 19th century, administered by the protestant state church. And, as many clergymen belonged to the revivalist movement, there were close links between the parishes, the hierarchy and the movement. There is therefore much likelihood that the early women's associations were influenced by this revivalist movement. Apart from these women's associations, which were right from the beginning associations of women for women, women were also organized in independent sections of associations, which were run by men. In public, only this male committee appeared, and therefore the archival evidence creates the impression that these associations were purely male. But I have even found a photography of the female committee of the Young Men's Christian Association. Revivalist associations usually had two parallel sections for men and for women, and they originally worked independently of each other. For the women's sections had their own committees. These women's sections are very important, because more than two thirds of the revivalists were women, and these women's sections, although they did not appear in public, had essential functions in the associations. They organized events, regular prayer meetings for women, publicity, and they collected money. From 1818 onwards there existed a so-called supporting association for the Basel Mission, the ”Hilfsverein”. Male relations of 3 of the 13 members of the women's association for female education belonged to the founding members and leaders of this supporting association. Although a male committee was in charge of this association, its members were more or less all women. The fund-raising of these women was an important financial factor for the Basel Mission. The rich Basel upper class, which laid claim to the leadership of the Basel Mission, again and again donated large sums, or legacies, but the basic sums and, above all, the
regular payments, were achieved by this well developed fund-raising organization, supported by women, and administered by men, which also had numerous branches in the rest of Switzerland and in Würtemberg. These "hidden" women's sections constitute, in my opinion, a separate type of women's associations, which never appeared in public. Even the exclusively female women's associations always had to have a male speaker to bring their concerns to public notice. It was this exclusion from the public platform that mainly impeded the independence of these women's associations, and disadvantaged the "hidden" women's sections from the beginning, compared to their male counterparts. From the beginning there was an imbalance between these parallel sections: The hierarchic subordination of the women's sections more and more jeopardized their organizational independence. More and more the women's sections were headed by men, who were also members of the parallel men's sections. Thereby the men directly influenced the activities of the women's sections, while the women had no power to influence the decisions of the male committees. This development within the revivalist associations also influenced the position of the associations founded by women in relation to the male committees of other associations. It is therefore significant, that, when the women's association for female education, which was intended to become an independent women's mission society, was founded, from the beginning no woman had the title of president, and the important functions of treasurer and secretary were always carried out by men. This development, however, cannot be observed in the "Brüdersozietät". Women themselves were in charge of the different girls' and women's choirs of the community, and they also independently looked after the members' pastoral welfare. In the team session the female heads of the choirs had the same rights as their male counterparts. These female choirs of the "Brüdersozietät" therefore presented, - within the revivalist movement in Basel - an alternative model, which did not question the traditional gender roles, and, seen from the outside, presented the community as run by men. But within the community, the women had their say, and independent activities were possible.
The Composition of the Women's Association for Female Education amongst the Heathens in 1841
At the time of its foundation in 1841, the women's association for female education had 13 female members. These women all had quite a lot of all kind of experience in organizing female activities: they belonged to the governing bodies of the "pure" women's associations, had important functions in the "hidden" women's sections, and 3 women belonged to the "Brüdersozietät". The experience and authority most of these women possessed, is also mirrored in their age. The oldest 3 women were over 50, 3 over 40 and 5 between 30 and 40. Only 2 women were younger than 30, but one of them was married. Next to age, above all marriage decided on the status of a woman. 10 women were married. 2 were single, one was divorced, but she was over 50. The close links between church and revivalist movement is also evident: 5 of the 10 married women are married to a member of the clergy. The political influence of the revivalist movement is also mirrored in this association: 2 of the husbands were members of the local government, two husbands, both clergy, were, ex officio, in the local ministry of education and thus supervised all state schools in Basel. All husbands, apart from the clergy, had important functions in the administration of the "Stadtgemeinde". Looked at it from the outside, the women‟s association for female education seemed independent from the male committee of the Basel Mission. The two men who belonged to the association were the husbands of two female members, but themselves not part of the male committee, although one of them, the treasurer, had a father-in-law who sat on the committee. He probably acted as intermediary between the female and the male committee, while the secretary represented the association in public. But how close the links to the male committee really were becomes clear when we look at the family connections between the women's association and the male committee: 7 of the 10 husbands were members of the male committee, two fathers, of a spinster and a married woman, and one uncle of another spinster. The women, with the exception of the divorced woman, were next of kin, too. The divorced woman had no near relations in the male committee, but she belonged to a wealthy and influential family. The 13 women basically belonged to two generations of one family: Two members were mother and
daughter and six were aunts and nieces; two of the married women were half-sisters, their husbands were brothers. The daughter of another of their sister was a member, too, and so were two women, who were sisters-in-law of yet a fourth sister. They, by the way, also had two brothers, or halfbrothers, who happened to be brothers-in-law of two other members. I think that these direct family connections seriously challenged the independency of this women's association from the beginning. Nor did the self-image of the women from the wealthy and influential upper class of the "Stadtbürgertum", the patriciate, really allow independence. The three women who belonged to the "Brüdersozietät" probably had a different idea of their own role, but then the economic dependency, the "Geschlechtsvormundschaft", effectively excluded any really independent activity.
Women's Legal and Social Status in the Basel Patriciate
As my examples of the "pure" associations, the "hidden" sections and the female choirs in the "Brüdersozietät" showed, there were very different ideas about how independent women were supposed or allowed to be within the male body of the revivalist movement. Particularly within the patriciate, the women's capacity to act seems to have been rather restricted. I attribute this to a family concept, to which the patriciate clung throughout the 19th century, although in reality, it was, already at the beginning of the century, not practised any longer, apart from some artisan families: One household scomprises several generations under one roof, all working together with employees and servants. This family concept still existed as an ideal for the patriciate, when house and family had already long been reduced to husband, wife, children and a couple of servants. This ideal model, with its various roles and hierarchic structures, however, was transferred onto the associations. Roles and competences were distributed between male and female sections as between husband and wife. The authoritarian leadership of the male committee can be traced back to this concept, which attributed absolute authority over all members of the household and all employees to the male head of the household, the senior boss.
In this concept the man represents the family and its interests outside the household and within the wider family. He manages the real estate, the family business, and supervises his employees. The woman is in charge of the household economy, feeds all family members, servants and employees, she is responsible for supplies and the garden, and she supervises the servants. She also supervises the children's education and she cultivates relations with family and friends. The same division of labour can be found in the mission between the male committee and the first women's mission association, which had its own speaker in the male committee up to 1827. And the range of activities of the women's associations never left this sphere of authority, as it was given them by the men, be it the associations founded by women for women, who dealt with poor relief and schools for the poor, or be it the women's association for female education of 1841. The same family concept prevented the women's appearance in public. The traditional role division appointed the public sphere to the man. That meant public discussions and politics in its widest sense. This is the reason for the male speakers, who had to take over when the women's associations wanted to address the public. The strict segregation of the sexes made joint meetings impossible, and the women's associations always needed a male intermediary. Whenever women were present when men discussed something, they were not supposed to interfere; they had to wait and listen to what the men had decided. The male head of the family was supposed to consult with his wife about important decisions that touched upon her sphere, but the decision was his. It is this subordination under the male superiority that made the independence of the women's associations so difficult. They were always dependent on male intermediaries. This also explains why only men spoke in favour of the foundation of an independent women's mission, be that in public or in the male committee, women could not and did not. And this is also why the "Aufruf", the "Appeal", published in 1841, addressed the men; the clergy, teachers, fathers, young men about to get married, and not the women: Give the women the freedom to organize themselves in independent associations, it pleaded. Within this family concept the married woman only, head of a household, held a certain authority: She was, hierarchically speaking, above younger men and women, servants and employees. The weakest position within the family was held by unmarried women and men, irrespective of their age; they stood lower than the older generation, lower than their married brothers or sisters, within whose household they might be living. At the
beginning of the 19th century men were, legally speaking, minors, till they married. This low social status of unmarried women as opposed to men and married women is an important reason for the difficulties men and women had with the concept of unmarried, single, independent female teachers. The "Geschlechtsvormundschaft" and the "Ehevogtei", which were supposed to protect the economic interests of a woman's family, were important components of this family concept. The protection of the interests of the woman's family, and this means her original family as opposed to that of her husband, went so far in Basel law, that the husband was only the beneficiary, not the owner of the wife's property, and, should he go bankrupt, she, or rather her family, were allowed to withdraw her assets before the creditors stepped in. These privileges of the married woman illustrate the lifelong, close economic ties between her and her parental family. This same "Geschlechtsvormundschaft", which did not allow women to freely dispose of their own property, made independent activities impossible for them. As soon as the associated women had collected or accumulated a certain sum, they needed the consent of their male family members in order to deal with it.
5. Conclusion 1841 was not the easiest time to found an independent woman's associations, certainly not within the context of the Basel Mission: Attitudes had been developing into a different direction in the years before 1841. In the "hidden" women's sections as well as in the associations founded by women for women, men had been taking over, and had been restricting their already week independency even more, or had completely destroyed it. It seems to me highly significant that the two male supporters of an independent women's mission society for female education in the male committee, Wilhelm Hoffmann and Albert Ostertag, were neither from Basel nor did they belong to the upper classes. They had a totally different perception of women's role in society from that of the other men in the committee. From the beginning it had been a very small minority of initiative men and women who campaigned for an independent women's association. This minority succeeded in founding a women's mission association - not a
society -, but they had to make certain very important concessions to the reluctant majority, right from the beginning: There was not to be a chairwoman; treasurer and secretary were to be men, and the majority of the female committee were women with very close family links to the members of the male committee. This new association seems to me to have been, right from the beginning, a compromise between an association, founded by women for women, and a "hidden" section of the type discussed earlier. The real distribution of power became clearly evident, when a new secretary was about to be elected in 1843: The male committee rejected the candidate the women suggested and elected one of their own members to the post. According to the male code of behaviour this did not constitute undue interference; they had asked the women for their opinion, the decision was still for them to make. The close family links finally helped the change from an independent women's association to a "hidden" section in the following years. The main problem, however, was the association's aim: To send out spinster teachers, who were expected to work independently and without their family's protection among unknown, unmarried men, far away at a foreign mission station. That constituted a scandal for the Basel patriciate, men and women in more than one respect: If the female teacher was the missionary's equal, then she would have to have a say in the station's meetings. Independent unmarried women would have seriously questioned the men's hierarchic position at the stations. Not only in the eyes of the missionaries themselves, but also in the eyes of the other workers at the stations. The missionaries' wives could not accept such a situation either: Unmarried women were not supposed to have an independent position, a position above the one of the married women. Independent, unmarried female teachers would have challenged, by their mere existence, the whole patrician family concept that was at the bottom of the organization model of the Basel Mission: A hierarchy where women were clearly subordinate to men.
Sara Janner Historian, born 1961 in Basel, read history, philosophy, paleography and archival studies in Basel and Florence. Main research interests: Social and religious history of Basel in the 19th century. She has published on: women's associations in the 19th century; Christian Zionism; photographs as sources for historical information; forms and formation of women's archival traditions. She is currently working on her Ph.D. thesis on the social and political functions of the Basel Mission amongst the Jews between 1830 and 1914. Adress: Sara Janner, Gotthardstrasse 56, CH-Basel, Switzerland email: email@example.com