Women Under Polygamy/Chapter 12
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CHAPTER XII ZENANA MISSIONS
ABOUT the year 1807, William Carey, a native of Northampton, started a small society for the conver- sion of India to Christianity. He was assisted by the zealous Henry Martyn and two other clergymen. A few years later an English school was opened in Cal- cutta, in which Hindu children were instructed in the Bible.
Wilberforce, approved of this mission, and lent it his fervent advocacy. Schools began to be erected in all parts of India, though the innovation was opposed by the natives.
"It is difficult to fix the exact date of the beginning" of Zenana missions in Calcutta, as the necessity for them was felt simultaneously by all the Missionary Societies working in and around that city. Some say that the Baptist missionaries were the first to begin the work ; and it is well known that Mrs. Mullens, of the L.M.S., and her daughters visited Zenanas in connection with their own mission at this time.
11 In 1855 tne R CV - J- Fordyce, who was then in charge of the Free Kirk Orphanage in Calcutta, employed one of his teachers, Miss Toogood, to visit in some Zenanas, to which
access had been gained. She was followed by Miss Isabella Marr, who had been trained in the Calcutta Normal School, and the work soon fell into the hands of the Normal School Society, and rapidly developed between the years 1859-1878. But in the early days of Zenana, teaching there were great difficulties in the way. Prejudice was still strong, and often when a Zenana had been thrown open to the teaching of the missionary it sud- denly closed again, causing great sorrow and disappointment to the teachers, who yearned for the souls of their poor im- prisoned pupils.*'*
The movement grew steadily. A number of low- caste Hindus were attracted to the new creed, which offered them an ideal of democracy and fraternity, and promised a material heaven beyond the grave. There are now nearly three millions of Christian converts in India, mainly in Bengal and Madras.
The Church of England Zenana Missionary Society has stations all over the Indian Empire from Peshawar to Hyderabad, from Calcutta to Madras and Ceylon. There is no doubt that the lady medical missioners have done good work in the zenanas, where formerly the methods of healing were crude and inefficient.
There is, however, a difference of view amongst Anglo-Indians as to the ethical results of missionary enterprise. Certainly, only a few of the educated classes of India profess Christianity. The Moham- medans, who are becoming more numerous than the Hindus, are not readily persuaded to abandon their
- " India's Women," Vol. XII.
Mrs. A. M. L. Smith, a missionary, writing in 1892, asks : ' What effect are we producing upon the Mohammedans of Bangalore? Humanly-speaking, we are so feeble surrounded with difficulties, one and another often failing in health, the language strange to us, the people so far removed from our ways of thought that it is difficult for us to understand them we cannot wonder that we cannot point to great results. But our faith is in God and we believe that His mighty Word will accomplish His Will even in our weak hands. "*
Again, Miss Pontin, writing from Barrackpore, says : " One thought has been often in my mind dur- ing the past year ; how very little we have yet done ! how very little impression we have made." She con- tinues that the Hindus are apathetic to the ministra- tions of the missionaries, and that there are few indi- cations of a widespread conversion to the Christian religion.
Indian native publicists have, however, written com- mending the efforts of English missionary ladies, especially in the field of popular education and medical attention in the harems. The secular work of the Christian missions is in many respects beneficial from the Hindu point of view. One native writer speaks with unqualified admiration of the Zenana
- Op. Cit., p. 409.
Missions, describing them as " beneficent and en- nobling agencies."*
It is fairly certain that the bulk of the Hindu and Mohammedan people of India will never embrace the Christian faith. The West has brought Christianity to the East; but the West has also introduced philo- sophic doubt and the rationalising tendency of the age. The message of the evangelical creed makes no appeal to the high-caste cultivated Hindu.
Any unprejudiced Englishman acquainted with Indian life will testify that we have made certain grievous mistakes in the administration of the Indian Empire. Tampering with ancient religious practice is always dangerous. The most sympathetic under- standing and the rarest tact are necessary in dealing with the subject-races. These virtues are not always exhibited by administrators. " Our intolerance of a morality other than our own," writes Mr. J. H. Nelson, an English barrister, " brings about again and again the saddest results."!
- Babu Nanda Lai Ghose, " A Guide for Indian Females from
Infancy to Old Age," Lahore, t "The Scientific Study of the Hindu Law."