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Henrietta Hall Shuck: Engendering Faith, Education, and Culture in Nineteenth-century Macao

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Henrietta Hall Shuck: Engendering Faith, Education, and Culture in Nineteenth-century Macao
Chapter 7 Henrietta Hall Shuck Engendering Faith, Education, and Culture in Nineteenth-Century Macao Isabel Morais Introduction Henrietta Hall Shuck (1817–1844) is famous for being the first American female missionary in China. Despite her short period of residence in Macao in the early nineteenth century, her multiple experiences in the Portuguese colony are invaluable. Her pronouncements in her journal entries, correspondences and other writings make clear her perceptions of Christian interaction with the Chinese people. Her writings combine strong religious beliefs with an equally powerful commitment to promote gender equality through education . Excerpts from her journal openly address female child slavery, the mui tsai system (little girls sold as household servants and for prostitution), gender-based class hierarchies, and the exploitation of women and children. Henrietta helped establish the first Chinese girls’ school in Macao and promoted other important factors through her writing such as the “Camões’s Garden and Grotto” and her discussion of The Lusiad. Had Henrietta Hall not come to China, I might not be here today.1 The first four decades of the nineteenth century were critical years in the Pearl River Delta and Macao. Many examples show Chinese tightening political control over Macao and increased opposition to British incursions.2 In Portugal, several reforms aimed at reinforcing state control of the administrative, political, military, and economic colonial organizations were implemented and extended to Macao.3 In 1835, the governor of Macao ordered that Portuguese who were born in Macao or who had lived in Macao for a long time, be 106 Isabel Morais restricted to municipal affairs only and thereby reducing the political autonomy of the local elites.4 Meanwhile, other important legislation was also extended to Macao. A law passed in 1834 called for the dissolution of all religious orders and congregations, and the abolition of slavery in every Portuguese territory in 1836. These initiatives weakened the Catholic Church’s role in the education system since all schools for both Portuguese and Asian converts in Macao were church-affiliated under the Portuguese Padroado (Patronage) system in Asia.5 At the same time, the United States’ maritime expansion and foreign policy in Asia started to assume a more assertive role, promoting American social, political, and liberal ideas. In 1803, the governor of Macao prohibited the consul of the United States from spending the winter in Macao, forcing him to go to Canton.6 Driven by profits from trade, Americans were nonetheless encouraged to continue going to China, and despite restrictions in Macao, they used the city as a base for not only commerce but the promotion of religion as well. This was done despite the opposition of the British East India Company to missionary activity, the Chinese government’s prohibitions of publicly propagating religion and the local Catholic elite’s aversions to non-Catholics in the Portuguese colony.7 According to Reverend John Lewis Shuck, Henrietta’s husband, the Protestant missionaries in Macao were “strictly prohibited by the civil authority any public efforts for the diffusion of the gospel” being limited to personal conversations only.8 The persecution against Protestants in Portugal might have contributed to the intolerance among Roman Catholics in Macao. It is worth mentioning that between 1843 and 1846 around one thousand Jews fled from Portugal to the United States and West Indies (British island of Trinidad). In 1846 more than four hundred Jewish people fled from the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira to Jacksonville and Springfield, in the state of Illinois.9 On the other hand, the immigration of Catholics into the United States, resulted in the so-called “nativist” movement in the 1840s, and the rise of the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s.10 For many years Protestant missionaries in China were restricted to Guangzhou (Canton) and Macao. They concentrated on distributing literature among members of the foreign and Chinese merchant class, which gained a few converts. And they laid the foundations for more humanitarian efforts of advancing education in China among the lower classes and providing medical services to the needy. This situation would change after the Opium Wars led to Henrietta Hall Shuck 107 the imposition of treaties, and compelled the Chinese government to allow evangelization and freedom to convert Chinese to Christianity. In the 1830s, North American and British missionaries established bases in Macao to advance their evangelical operations. Amidst the restrictions and constraints of the diplomacy of the Canton system (ca. 1700–1842), which included a ban on foreign women entering China...
Book Title
Americans and Macao: Trade, Smuggling, and Diplomacy on the South China Coast
Hong Kong
Hong Kong University Press
Short Title
Henrietta Hall Shuck
Library Catalog
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Morais, I. (2012). Henrietta Hall Shuck: Engendering Faith, Education, and Culture in Nineteenth-century Macao. In Americans and Macao: Trade, Smuggling, and Diplomacy on the South China Coast (pp. 105–124). Hong Kong University Press.