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    Representing Catholic medical missions in the English Press. Education, professionalism and internationality (1950-1970)

    Mangion, Carmen M. (2022) Representing Catholic medical missions in the English Press. Education, professionalism and internationality (1950-1970). In: Dumons, B. (ed.) Women’s Missionary Congregations: Education, Care and Humanitarianism : A Transnational History (19th-20th centuries). Rome, Italy: Norme Viella. ISBN 9791254692066.

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    Photographed hard at work in her laboratory at Holy Family Hospital in Mandar, Jharkhand, India, Sister M. Vianney, Medical Mission Sister, represented the modern face of religious life. She was a local girl from Sutton Coldfield, educated at nearby Acocks Green, just outside of Birmingham, England. Her education and professional accomplishments, applauded in the Catholic Pictorial article of 1961, were impressive: she studied physiology, chemistry, and mathematics at Birmingham College of Technology later graduating from Birmingham University with a B.Sc (honours) in physiology. After gaining medical experience in laboratories at the Birmingham Skin Hospital, Charing Cross Hospital (London), and Rochdale General Hospital, Inglis, age 30, entered the international Society of the Catholic Medical Missionaries, known as the Medical Mission Sisters. Two years later, after a rigorous religious formation in the English convents in Osterley, outside London and in South Shields, County Durham, she was sent to Mandar to manage the laboratory where her biochemical knowledge was in great demand. The article in the Catholic Pictorial touted the Medical Mission Sisters as ‘the first religious community of Sisters to dedicate themselves exclusively to the scientific care of the sick in the missions’ thus resolutely asserting their credentials first as Catholic religious sisters and second as scientifically trained, professional, medical and paramedical experts. Sister Vianney was represented as operating beyond the strictly religious framework of the evangelizing mission; she was also a sister educated to the highest standard, carrying out important medical work in the overseas mission field. This chapter analyses this and similar representations of medical missionary sisters in the English press in the 1950s and 1960s. It considers how press reporting and published photographs further our understanding of how female medical missionaries were depicted as workers in the mission field. First, it examines the promotion tactics of one congregation, the Medical Mission Sisters, arguing that they strategically used the media to shape their public identity. Next, in scrutinising the representations of female medical missionaries found in the weekly Catholic Pictorial, it argues that photographic images of medical mission sisters were distinctive in their composition and message from those of more traditional teaching and nursing sisters. As a cohort, medical missionary congregations, many of whom were founded in the first half of the twentieth century, initiated a public-facing promotion strategy that emphasised a discourse of modernity emphasising education, professionalisation, and internationality.


    Item Type: Book Section
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): female religious life; medical missions; Catholic press;
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Research Centres and Institutes: Accounting and Finance Research Centre
    Depositing User: Carmen Mangion
    Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2023 15:51
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 18:13


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