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Section I: East Asia Missions

Parts 4 to 9: Church of England Zenana Missionary Society, 1880-1957

Introduction to the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society by Rosemary Keen

The Church of England Zenana Missionary Society was founded in 1880 when it separated from the interdenominational Indian Female Normal School Society, which had been founded in 1852. Its main aim was to evangelise the women of India by means of normal schools [teacher training colleges], zenana visiting, medical missions, Hindu and Muslim female schools and the employment of Bible women. The society worked in close co-operation with the Church Missionary Society and in 1957 it amalgamated with CMS. A board of trustees continued to administer the transfer of property and trust funds until 1968.

The first headquarters of the Society was at Westbourne Park, London. It served both as office and residential base for missionaries on leave, prospective candidates, deputation workers, members of the annual Spring conference and other visitors. In 1881 the office moved to 9 Salisbury Square and in 1883 the Central Home, as the residential base was called, moved to Hampstead. The office subsequently moved to Chancery Lane in 1898, Southampton Street 1929 and finally Cromwell House, Highgate in 1952. In the meantime the Central Home was also being used as the depot in connection with the industrial branches of the overseas missions. It was not always possible to find enough customers locally for the goods produced by the industrial classes to cover the costs and support the women workers, so the Society sought a market for these goods in England. Miss Sandys at headquarters received these products (not only such items as embroidered articles, brassware, rugs etc. but also chutney, curry powder and jam [these last made in the Baranagar Converts' Home]) and undertook the disposal of them through sales and local CEZMS depots in England. It was the forerunner of the work of the Indian Widows' Union. In 1888 however, it was decided to have one central depot and this was combined with the residential base and moved to the Manor House at Highbury 1888, The Lodge, Gibson's Hill, Streatham 1938 and Cromwell House, where it also incorporated the office headquarters in 1952.

The overseas work of the Society started in India but spread to China in 1884, Japan in 1886 and Ceylon in 1889. Work in China ended in 1950 when the missionaries had to leave, but from 1952 they worked among the Chinese in Malaya. Work in Japan was given up in 1892 and handed over to CMS. When the Female Education Society closed down in 1900, CEZMS took over their work in Singapore, though the Singapore School Sub-committee was not fully integrated until 1913.

CEZMS missionaries began by teaching in zenanas and day- schools. The chief stations were Trivandrum, Palamcotta (Sarah Tucker College), Masulipatam and Madras in South India, Meerut (handed over to CMS 1893), Jabalpur, Calcutta (Normal School) and Amritsar (Alexandra School) in North India.

Medical work was of great importance, The Society had taken responsibility for the work at St Catherine's hospital Amritsar and other hospitals and dispensaries were established in Bhagalpur, Srinagar, Peshawar, Batala, Narowal and Tarn Taran. Work was also done by village missions, a central village from which evangelists visited dozens of villages grouped around the centre. These had been pioneered by Miss Clay who established the first at Jandiala in the Punjab in 1882. Others were at Ajnala, Narowal, Tarn Taran and Nadiya.

Industrial work was begun in 1883, with a class at Amritsar organised by Miss Emily Wauton. She was also the initiator of the Indian Widows' Union set up in England in the 1880s and organised by CEZMS from 1889. English widows raised financial support for grants for Indian widows' industrial classes. It was active from 1889 to 1946/7 and its reports are entered in the Annual Reports.

There was also work among the deaf and dumb in India, at Palamcotta (1900) and Mylapore (1914) and among the blind in China at Kucheng, Nantai and Foochow.

In the British Isles the Society formed a 'Home Workers' Band' for groups of women who were kept in touch with headquarters through local associations and deputations from headquarters and overseas. For young girls there was a Daybreak Workers' Union which was likewise organised into bands (about 150 of them in 1910). Children who were too young for the Daybreak workers had their own organisation, Torchbearers, begun in 1902 by Mrs Tonge. Members of both Daybreak and Torchbearers had their own magazines.

The magazine Daybreak for the years 1889, 1893-1894 has been filmed in Section II Part 3 of this microfilm series. It contains articles on missionaries, schools and work in the Zenanas in India, China and Ceylon. The illustrated magazine Torchbearer for the years 1914-1948 is incorporated in the CEZMS periodical Homes of the East. The years 1910-1914 of Homes of the East have been filmed also in Section II Part 3 of this microfilm series. The periodical also contains articles on and letters from missionaries in India, China, Singapore and Ceylon.

The main periodical of the CEZMS was India’s Women and China’s Daughters, 1880-1939 which was renamed Looking East at India’s Women and China’s Daughters, 1940-1957. This has been filmed as Section II Part 2 of the series and is the main source for research into the early overseas work of the CEZMS.

The periodical was published initially bi-monthly and then from 1892 monthly and contains articles on India and China, including history, religion, way of life, the place of women; records of missionary work, including reports from missionaries and other staff such as Bible women; the work at home, including the Prayer Union, associations and subscriptions, needlework and its sale, annual meetings, deputations and sermons, Girls’ Union, prize competitions, correspondence and extracts from committee proceedings, Bible study and book reviews.

From Volume II there are indexes of names and subjects with an index of illustrations included for 1900-1957 and from 1884 onwards is included a list of stations and missionaries.

At the time the Society began 287 of the IFNS Associations and 12 of the Association Secretaries moved to the new Society. CEZMS flourished with interest spreading overseas to Canada and Australia. In 1887 and 1890 deputations were sent to Canada which increased the support and by 1900 there were in all 884 Associations.

The Association Secretaries were the field staff for the Society who, as with the CMS field staff, acted as representatives of the Society in the British Isles providing information and support for the members of CEZMS within their allotted areas.

The CEZMS archive also contains the years 1872-1880 of the periodical The Indian Female Evangelist which was published by the Indian Female Normal School and Instruction Society, from 1880 called the Bible and Medical Mission, later the Bible Medical Missionary Fellowship and since 1987 Interserve. It includes articles and reports about mission work and reports on work at headquarters.

The years 1881-1956 of the periodical (renamed in 1893 The Zenana:Woman’s Work in India) are held at Interserve and have been filmed as Part 4 of Section II of the microfilm series.


The Catalogue of the CEZMS, which is to be found in full at the end of this guide, gives a detailed listing of the contents of the archive and is invaluable for researchers. It should be noted that the archive suffered severe flood damage in World War II and the correspondence with the missions overseas survives only from 1921. But the printed reports, periodicals and other publications do partly compensate for this loss. Researchers should also refer to the CMS archive as the two Societies worked very closely together.

The archive is listed in four sections corresponding to the departments of the four Sections in charge in 1952.

The Clerical Secretary’s Papers

These papers filmed in Parts 4-7 of the series include miscellaneous correspondence for 1921-1945 such as letters concerning child marriage in India; correspondence with committee members regarding publicity, advertising and policy matter; staff affairs and committee work papers.The editorial papers also included in this section contain fascinating correspondence of and stories by the missionaries. They are divided alphabetically into mission areas with newspaper cuttings and photographs adding an interesting perspective.

One of the most important sources for research into the work of the CEZMS is the Annual Reports, 1880-1957, containing information on the year’s activities and events at home and overseas. Also of research interest are the leaflets and reports of the CEZMS missions, 1906-1939, arranged alphabetically by mission. Included in this part of the archive are a set of around 100 books written by famous CEZMS missionaries such as Miss K Bose and Miss E Karney. They describe their lives and the people they worked among and give tremendous detail on the countries. Most are lavishly illustrated.

The Foreign and Candidates Secretary’s Papers

The early manuscript archives of this section up to 1920 were lost during World War II and the main source for research about early overseas work lies in the CEZMS periodical India’s Women and China’s Daughters, 1880-1939 retitled Looking East at India’s Women and China’s Daughters, 1940-1957. As mentioned earlier this has been filmed as Section II Part 2 of the microfilm series. The CMS overseas archive can also augment the information for the early period.

For the later period, which is filmed in Section I Parts 7-9, correspondence exists with missions for 1921-1956 and is arranged by country with an index. Also available are the Register of foreign despatches, 1930-1946; annual reports, 1947, 1949-1956; correspondence with and about missions on subjects such as the Quetta earthquake, schools and hospitals; the Mission Journal compiled in 1901 giving a brief resumé of the history of each of the CEZMS missions with a list of missionaries; personnel files of missionaries, 1930-1956; the missionaries’ blue packets arranged A-Z giving full biographical details. The minutes of the Candidate’s committee regarding the appointment and location of candidates (with an index of names) give factual information for 1882-1957.

The Financial Secretary’s Papers

These papers, filmed in Part 9 of the series, contain minutes with indexes, ledgers, cash books, accounts and detail regarding CEZMS property both at home and abroad.

The Home Organisation Secretary’ Papers

These are filmed in Part 9 and the papers include minutes of meetings with indexes of names and subjects, miscellaneous items on the Jubilee celebrations and photographs of CEZMS celebrities, missionaries and staff.

Hints on how to use the CEZMS Archive

The starting point is the CEZMS catalogue which gives full details on the contents. The CEZMS periodicals are invaluable for research and the CMS Archive has card indexes which provide further information. The CMS card index of names includes lists of CEZMS missionaries and the CMS place index includes CEZMS missionaries at each station for the period pre-1880.



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