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Section II: Missions to Women

Part 5: Minutes of the Zenana, Bible and Medical Mission, 1865-1937, and the Annual Reports of the Indian Female Normal School and Instruction Society, 1863-1879, from Interserve, London

The Zenana, Bible and Medical Mission was born in 1880 out of the Indian Female Normal School and Instruction Society which had been founded in 1852. The material does therefore include the minutes of the Indian Female Normal School and Instruction Society before its change of name in 1880. The Zenana, Bible and Medical Mission was later to change its name to the Bible Medical Missionary Fellowship and later in 1985 to Interserve.

The Minutes of the Zenana, Bible and Medical Mission for 1856-1937 contain full details of the Committee meetings and are all handwritten in a very easily decipherable hand. From 1894 an index is included of subjects, names and places. Most of the material consists of details of letters received either from the missionaries or from would be missionaries and they cover an extremely wide variety of topics: the work of Biblewomen and their salaries; requests from missionaries to stay on in India even though ill; requests for extension of missionary furloughs; letters from missionaries about to go out the missions with details of their expected arrival dates; applications for employment from would be missionaries; details regarding the change of name of the Society; letters from missionary doctors; details of daughters of missionaries acting as Zenana agents; letters from missionaries complaining about the onerous duties they had to perform; lists of surgical instruments needed from Britain; details of missionary salaries.

The Minutes also include: financial reports; minutes of committees; discussions regarding publishing a magazine for the Society; an appeal for Biblewomen; details on the setting up of new schools; lists of contributions sent by missionaries to London; expenses reports for missionaries; details on the medical missionary at Lahore; information on new districts to be opened up by the Society; the regulations of the Society; printed leaflets such as The Standing Committee for the Western India Mission, The Syllabus for the Bible Training Class; the Rules and Regulations of the Kinnaird Training Centre for Women; a memorandum on missionary candidates from overseas.

The Annual Reports, 1863-1879 of the Indian Female Normal School and Instruction Society, also included in this part, are equally rich in material for research into women’s work in India.

They contain an account of the year’s work in the missions covering a wealth of topics including: new teachers appointed; examinations; information on the Native Training School and the Heathen Infant Day School; very detailed information on the work carried out by the missionaries in the Zenanas with fascinating descriptions of the way of life and customs; the work of Native Agents and female Bible Readers; a Statement of Funds and Subscriptions for the year; extracts of missionary journals.

This is a goldmine of research material for all those wishing to find out more about women’s work in India and the interaction between the missionaries and the men and women of India.

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