Withdrawal from Weihui: China missions and the silencing of missionary nursing, 1888–1947

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The shift of missionary nursing from the center to the margins of nursing practice can be traced to the unceremonious closure of China as a mission field in the late 1940s. Building on a larger study of Canadian missionary nursing at the United Church of Canada North China Mission between 1888 and 1947, this paper traces Clara Preston's experiences during the last tumultuous days of the mission during the height of China's civil war. Drawing on rich data from the United Church of Canada/ Victoria University Archives, private family collections (photos, letters, memoirs) as well as from three on-site visits to the Weihui Hospital in Henan, China, this paper focuses on the questions ‘what happened during the last days of Canadian missionary nursing in China?’ and ‘why is so little known about missionary nursing?’ According to this study, three issues contributed to the silencing of missionary nursing after 1947: the self-censorship of repatriated missionaries, the mission identity crises catalyzed by the ‘failure’ of the missionary enterprise in China, and the equating of the missionary movement with colonialism and imperialism in academic discourse.

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