Zenana Bible and Medical Missions in India

Cover: Ella Mary Weatherley [1870-1921], From West to East. Being the Story of a Recent Visit to Indian Missions

Ella Mary Weatherley was the Honorary Secretary of the Zenana Bible and Medical Mission (ZBMM) (which today has become Interserve). In around 1909 she undertook a tour of ZBMM station across India and this book is the substance of her report.

My thanks to Redcliffe College for providing a copy of this public domain title for digitisation.

Ella Mary Weatherley [1870-1921], From West to East. Being the Story of a Recent Visit to Indian Missions. London: Zenana Bible and Medical Mission, [1910]. Hbk. pp.128. [Click to visit the download page for this title]


  • Introduction
  1. Port Said
  2. Bombay
  3. Nasik
  4. Manmad
  5. Agra
  6. Cawnpore
  7. Lucknow
  8. Khurja and Bulandshahr
  9. Dehli
  10. Lamore and Kasur
  11. Benares
  12. Gorakhpur
  13. Allahabad
  14. Sultanpur
  15. Jaunpur
  16. Patna
  17. Valtoha
  18. Patti
  19. Parantij—Bombay
  20. Panchgani anbd Sholapur

Introduction by the Right Rev E.G. Ingram, D.D. [1851-1926]

I have lately been travelling over much of the ground covered by Miss Weatherley, and it is a pleasure to write a few words by way of calling attention to the sort of information she is now in a position to afford to those who are willing to know the facts about our thin Missionary fighting line.

First of all let me say that I am a great believer in the value of the impression a visitor is in a position to convey. Again and again during my Far Eastern journeys Missionaries have said, “It would never have occurred to us to put that down.” And they admitted that probably their very familiarity with the scenes in the midst of which they live has made them a little absent-minded as to the sort of facts the workers in the homeland want most to hear about. So true it is that “lookers on see most of the game!”

Then again I am anxious to say again and again that it is necessary for the Home base and the front to be intelligently and sympathetically linked together. Though doubted whether the Mission wants the casual visitor, there can be no doubt that anyone who comes from the Home Committee with a desire to give to fellow-workers the right hand of fellowship, and to get to understand their problems at first hand, will receive a warm welcome and will do much good.

Such a visit as that described in the following pages will be a distinct asset. Everything Miss Weatherley reads or hears will come to her now with a new intelligence, and the word in season will come easy both in Conference and in Committee.

The stages are constantly changing. The sort of work and worker needed yesterday may not be wanted to-morrow. The emergence of an indigenous Christianity means greater changes still. The Missionaries will do better work in proportion as they realize they have an intelligent and co-operative base behind them.

Women’s Missionary Work in India and China

Cover: Glimpses of Women's Missionary Work in India and China.

Written shortly after the Jubilee of the Baptist Missionary Society (1867-1917), this book aims to provide a series of snapshots of the work done by female Baptist missionaries. It is illustrated by six photographic plates from India and China.

My thanks to Redcliffe College for providing a copy of this public domain title for digitisation.

George Hawker [1857-1932], Open the Window Eastward. Glimpses of Women’s Missionary Work in India and China. London: The Carey Press, [1917]. Hbk. pp.170. [Click to visit the download page for this title]

  • Preface
  1. Pioneers
  2. Zenana Echoes
  3. Zenana Schools
  4. Women’s Influence
  5. Village Itineration
  6. Boat-Tours in the Beels
  7. “Going-a-Plaguing”
  8. Famine Relief Work
  9. “Doctor Sahiba”
  10. An Industrial Settlement (Salamatpur)
  11. Education: Dehli, Entally and Ballygunge
  12. India: Review and Outlook
  13. Country Work in Shantung
  14. Bessie Campbell and Her Biographer
  15. Certain Women and their Stories
  16. In the Days of the Second Revolution
  17. The New Opportunity

Chapter 2: Zenana Echoes

When our missionary sisters entered the grudgingly opened doors of the zenanas, they were constrained, more markedly in some districts than in others, to make haste slowly. In a speech delivered in London in 1881, when the Mission was just fourteen years old, the Rev. R. F. Guyton described the evolution of zenana work proper in the city of Delhi, the scene of his own memorable labours. At first our sisters could attempt little more than the establishing of friendly relations by means of conversation on general topics. Later they were able to give lessons in reading, writing and secular subjects. Then they taught lace-work and other, feminine employments, which provided new interests and relieved the monotony of seclusion; and finally, when confidence had been secured and minds opened, they were able to introduce the Scriptures and urge the claims of Christ.

Mr. Guyton was of opinion that this policy of patience was entirely justified, and that more precipitate evangelism would have resulted in exclusion. Since that time zenana doors have been opening ever more swiftly and widely, and if the missionary staff were immensely increased, the members of it and their native assistants would find more than enough to do of actual gospel work.

In reading this address of Mr. Guyton’s, and relating it to other records, one is driven to reflect upon the appalling amount of inane and trivial talk which must have afflicted our women missionaries, taxing their patience to the point of exhaustion, in those early days, and, indeed, all the way along. Of course small talk is not peculiar to any race or to either sex, and if the conversation of the world were stenographed for a single day, and the, volume of it appraised by some commissioned angel of adequate endurance, it is gravely doubtful whether the talk of women would be adjudged to be vainer or more wearisome than that of men. That men think lightly of women’s matters is irrelevant. The angel critic, superior to masculine limitations and unbiased by masculine conceit, would weigh with equal scales….


Church of England Zenana Missions in India and Sri Lanka

A.D., Until the Shadows Flee Away. The Story of the C.E.Z.M.S. in India and Ceylon

The zenana missions were outreach programmes established in British India with the aim of converting women to Christianity. From the mid 19th century, they sent female missionaries into the homes of Indian women, including the private areas that male visitors were not allowed to see (zenana). Gradually these missions expanded from purely evangelical work to providing medical and education services. Hospitals and schools established by these missions are still active, making the zenana missions an important part of the history of Christianity in India.

“Zenana Missions”, Wikipedia

My thanks to the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide for making this public domain book available for digitisation.

A.D., Until the Shadows Flee Away. The Story of the C.E.Z.M.S. in India and Ceylon. London: Church of England Zenana Missionary Society, n.d. Hbk. pp.247. [Click to visit the download page for this title]


Part 1: Outlines and Impressions

  1. India and its Peoples
  2. India Past and Present
  3. Religions of India
  4. Condition of India and its Women
  5. India’s Women at the Crossing of the Way
  6. Folk-lore
  7. “Little Kings”
  8. The Church of England Zenana Missionary Society

Part 2: The Story of Work Amongst the Women of India and Ceylon

  1. The Border-Lnd and Over
  2. Through the Sindh to the Sea
  3. The Land of the Five Rivers
  4. The Plain of the Ganges
  5. The Central Provinces
  6. In the Telugu Country
  7. Madras and the Plateau of Mysore
  8. The Blue Mountains and the Lords of the Hills
  9. The Sacred Hedge
  10. The Land of the Conch Shell
  11. The Shining Land
  • Afterword—As the Stars
  • Appendices

Zenana Mission Stories from India

Z.B.M.M. Missionaries, Doors of Hope and HealingThis little book contains 27 accounts by the women of the Zenana Bible Medical Mission. Each illustrates their work within the hidden world of the women’s quarters of Indian homes. My thanks to Redcliffe College for providing a copy of this book for digitisation. This book is in the public domain.

Z.B.M.M. Missionaries, Doors of Hope and Healing. London: “Z” Press, 1935. Pbk. pp.100. [Click to download the complete book in PDF]


  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • A Morning’s Round
  • Pain
  • Pashi’s Bride
  • Ratnakar
  • Surji
  • Taramoni
  • Sonia
  • Mohammed Ali
  • Gangubai
  • “Lydia…”
  • Saku
  • Village Dispensing
  • A Gospel Bus
  • Jakur
  • Bhanso
  • Langri
  • Moru
  • Shanti
  • Anandi
  • Fatima
  • Routine: The Daily Round
  • Darkness and Light
  • Lila and Shanti
  • Star
  • Noel
  • Shanti
  • Paul


This little book, compiled by ladies engaged in the work of a well-known medical mission, is a microcosm of the real India. Its simplicity is impressive; it makes no pretence of literary art or finish; it just sets down what the writers have seen and done and endured, day by day, during their years of service for India. To anyone who knows the scenes which they depict, these sketches bring back vivid memories-the acrid odours of the bazaar, the dust-laden air shimmering with waves of merciless heat, the pathetic crowds at the hospital gates, the veil of mystery which shrouds the women’s quarters in most Indian homes. The writers get behind that veil and tell us something of the hidden lives of their Indian sisters.

The narrative is naturally a mixture of darkness and light, of depression and joyfulness. [Continue reading]

Zenana Missions Work Fuh-Kien Province, China

Mary Elizabeth Darley [c.1870-1934], The Light of the Morning. The Story of the C.E.Z.M.S. Work in the Kien-Ning Prefecture of the Fuh-Kien Province China.This is the fascinating account of the Zenana mission work of Mary Elizabeth Darley [c.1870-1934]. She served in China with the Church of England Zenana Mission Society and was supported by the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Dublin University Fuh-Kien Mission. My thanks to Redcliffe College for providing a copy of the book to scan. This title is in the public domain.

Mary Elizabeth Darley [c.1870-1934], The Light of the Morning. The Story of the C.E.Z.M.S. Work in the Kien-Ning Prefecture of the Fuh-Kien Province China. London: Church of England Zenana Missionary Society / Marshall Brothers, 1903. Hbk. pp.251. [Download complete book in PDF]


  • Introduction
  1. First Impressions
  2. Some Village Christians
  3. The Story of Golden Sister
  4. The “Ten-Commandments Inn” Woman
  5. Summer Sketches
  6. “They are Waiting Everywhere!”
  7. An Itinerating Tour
  8. A Strange Experience
  9. Shadows Steal Across the Sky
  10. Clouds Cover the Blue
  11. “He Maketh the Storm to Cease!”
  12. A Leper, and Blind
  13. A Station Class
  14. Fields Already White
  15. Binding the Sheaves
  16. Toil and Sure Reward

One story that caught my wife’s eye as she was looking through this book was the ministry among Buddhist “prayer-women” and the account of the conversion of one of them at the age of 75.

Extract from p.141 onwards

“We have lately come in close contact with old Mrs. Ho, who for the last thirty years has been busily engaged in prayer-chanting. In the third month of last year she came to our house amongst a crowd of forty or fifty other women a tidy, clean old lady, seventy-five years old, very small, and well-behaved. I gave her tea, and she stroked my hand, and said, ‘ I cannot understand what you say with so many visitors here; may I wait till they are gone, and then you can slowly tell me about your religion?’

“Willingly I asked her to wait, and for five hours that old lady sat eagerly listening to what I was saying, and trying to understand. When the rush of visitors was over, I was able to talk to her alone for some time. She was very much interested, and, I think, was convicted of the truth on that first Sunday.

“Every week she came regularly to Church, and we could tell that a real work was going on in her heart. Then a difficulty arose. She was receiving payment for prayers she was saying for several families, and had been prepaid for the next three months. As this payment had been paid in kind, and not in cash, she did not know what to do. [Continue reading]

Glimpses of Christian India with Ella Luce

Ella Luce [1860-1943], Glimpses of Christian IndiaElla Luce [1860-1943] vividly recalls her long service in India with the Zenana Medical mission extending from 1888-1922. My thanks to Redcliffe College for providing a copy of the book to scan. This title is in the public domain.

Ella Luce [1860-1943], Glimpses of Christian India. London & Edinburgh: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, [1933]. Hbk. pp.216. [Click to download complete book in PDF]


  1. Earliest Recollections
  2. School and Life in London
  3. Mission and Conversion
  4. Voyage to India, and the First Year There
  5. Beginning Work at Sultanpur
  6. Work at Sultanpur – and Marriages of My Sisters
  7. Building the First Orphanage, and Famine of 1897
  8. Accounts of Some Girls Saved in the Famine
  9. Missionary Friends and Expansion of the Work
  10. Building the Hospital, and Plague in Cawmpore
  11. A Difficult Girl and a Serious Illness
  12. Weddings and Consumption
  13. Building Large New Dormitories For 100 Children

Part Two: Tours in India After Retirement

  • First Tour After Retirement
  • Second Tour After Retirement
  • Deputation Tours in England and Closing Work in Sultanpur

Chapter 1: Earliest Recollections

How or by whom I was informed I cannot say, but I know somehow that my father was sitting by a fire at twelve o’clock on the night of July seventh, eighteen hundred and sixty, when a nurse appeared and told him that another daughter had been born to him. This was a disappointment, as he had naturally hoped that his second offspring would be a son.

The old house looking more or less like a large farm house covered with many creepers, had a long narrow hall with drawing-room and dining-room on each side, a study with steps leading to the garden, six fairly large bedrooms, two dressing-rooms and an upper storey containing several rooms used by the servants… [Continue reading]

Fanny Jane Butler – Pioneer Medical Missionary to India

E.M. Tonge, Fanny Jane Butler, Pioneer Medical MissionaryDr Fanny Jane Butler was, according to Wikipedia,

…among the first female doctors to travel to India and the first fully trained doctor from England to do so. Prior to her work in Kashmir and other parts of India, Butler was a part of the first class of the London School of Medicine for Women, becoming a member of the forefront of female doctors. Butler spent seven years in India until her death in 1889 and opened medical dispensaries in Srinagar and Bhagalpur, where no medical facilities had previously existed. Butler also initiated the building of the first hospital in Srinagar in 1888 called the John Bishop Memorial Hospital and provided necessary medical care for Indian women, for whom little care had been available.

Thanks to the kind permission of the Church Mission Society I am able to make available one of the standard biographies of this remarkable lady – kindly provided by Redcliffe College. This book is copyright Church Mission Society.

E.M. Tonge, Fanny Jane Butler, Pioneer Medical Missionary. London: Church of England Zenana Missionary Society, 1930. Pbk. pp.54. [Click to download complete book in PDF]


  • Foreword (Contributed)
  • Prologue
  1. By the Thames
  2. “Not Disobedient to the Heavenly Vision”
  3. Student Days
  4. Buying Experience
  5. By the Ganges
  6. Off the Beaten Track
  7. A Lover of Children
  8. A Stenuous Furlough
  9. By the Jhelum
  10. Overwhelming Opportunities
  11. The Last Journey Down the River
  • Epilogue (Contributed)


It is a real honour and pleasure to contribute a brief Foreword to this most interesting sketch by E. M. Tonge of the Life and Work of the late Dr. Fanny Butler.

The whole story reads as might the life of some mediaeval saint, one of the men and women who had so dedicated themselves, their powers, and their lives to Christ’s service that they could say: “it is not I who live, but Christ Who liveth in me.”

It is perhaps an advantage that the sketch presented for the help and encouragement of a later generation of women doctors should be so restrained and so shortened. These are busy days, and it is probable that the little, unassuming” life” of a devoted woman who was at once both saint and heroine should have been cast into a form that will make but little demand on the time, but ought to make great demands on the development of her successors. [Continue reading]


Zenana Missions in India

What were Zenana Missions? Zenana refers “…to the part of a house belonging to a Hindu or Muslim family in South Asia which is reserved for the women of the household.” These women were almost completely isolated from wider society and had no access to any kind of medical care. Male missionaries could not preach the Gospel to them, but female missionary doctors could – hence the growth in the late 19th Century of Zenana medical missions. This little book provides some stories from the life of one of these pioneering ladies. It appears by kind permission of the Church Missionary Society.

Charlotte S. Vines, A Woman Doctor On the Frontier. London: Church of England Zenana Mission, 1925. Pnk. pp.78. [Click to download in PDF format]


The Avalache

  1. A Jigsaw Puzzle
  2. Our Hospital
  3. Our Road
  4. Fatama
  5. Martha and Mary
  6. The Cripple
  7. Zargulla
  8. A Frontier Village
  9. Little Jewel
  10. A Sunday Case
  11. The Village of Eggs
  12. Witchcraft
  13. The Donkey Woman

The Cross

The Avalanche

In a lovely upland valley, one of the hillsides was covered with a forest of great trees. The view was very beautiful; on this side of the valley snow-on that, a wooded slope. We wandered into that wood; it was damp and dark, the sun could scarcely penetrate it, and many dank weeds flourished.

We went up another year and, looking towards our forest, saw but a great bare hillside; all down the valley huge trunks of trees lay scattered and the hill was cropped and brown as if some giant had reaped it with a mighty scythe. Our view was spoilt; our hill all scarred and ugly. What had happened?

Said the hillmen: “In the winter, when no man may live here, there was a mighty avalanche; it swept down the valley and everything in its course was torn up-even the earth was ploughed bare.” Our servants, who cared nothing for the view, said: “Great good fortune has come to us! See. the wood for lighting our fires and for burning has come down right to our very tents! We have but to step out and there is our wood.”

Next year again we went up and looked toward our mountains. Oh, the change! New life had come; the whole hillside was a tender, lovely green. We climbed, and lo! the hillside was covered with wonderful flowers-green grass and flowers. An old shepherd pointed upwards and said: “That snow did us a great benefit; now our animals can feed well and we can watch them easily.”

Yet we, with our short sight, had said: ” Oh, how cruel-why do such things happen?” [Continue reading]