Michèle Miller SiggAug 5, 2023
Women and Mission in Nineteenth-Century France
Baylor University Press 2022
The nineteenth century witnessed a flurry of evangelical and missionary activity in Europe and North America. This was an era of renewed piety and intense zeal spanning denominations and countries. One area of Protestant flourishing in this period has received scant attention in Anglophone sources, however: the French Réveil. Born of a rich Huguenot heritage but aimed at recovering the religion of the heart, this awakening gave birth to a dynamic missionary movement—and some of its chief agents were women.
In Birthing Revival: Women and Mission in Nineteenth-Century France (Baylor UP, 2022), Michèle Sigg sheds light on the seminal role French Protestant women played in launching and sustaining this movement of revival and mission. Out of the concerted efforts of these women arose a holistic mission strategy encompassing the home front and the foreign field. Parisian women, led by Émilie Mallet, established schools to provide infants with food, safety, and religious education. Mallet and her friend Albertine de Broglie led the women’s auxiliary of the Paris Bible Society to design and carry out a strategy for large-scale Bible distribution and fundraising. In 1825 de Broglie pioneered the women’s committee of the Paris Evangelical Mission Society, which used the Bible Society model to promote international missions across their many networks. In meetings, publications, and reports to the annual General Assembly, the women reflected on their calling in the work of mission and fully embraced their identity as "true missionaries."
The success of women teachers and their presence as wives and mothers in the Lesotho Mission—exemplified by pioneering missionary wife Elizabeth Lyndall Rolland—proved that married couples serving together as models of Christian living were essential in opening the doors to missionary work in Africa. The story, and these women’s legacies, does not end in the field, however. Sigg demonstrates how the educational work of the missionary wives and their publications that shared good news of growing faith in Lesotho sparked local revivals in France. When the enthusiasm of the Réveil waned in the metropole and divisions mounted among Protestants, a movement of deaconesses emerged to renew the faith of French Protestants.
Byung Ho Choi is a Ph.D. candidate in the History and Ecumenics program at Princeton Theological Seminary, concentrating in World Christianity and history of religions. His research focuses on the indigenous expressions of Christianities found in Southeast Asia, particularly Christianity that is practiced in the Muslim-dominant archipelagic nation of Indonesia. More broadly, he is interested in history and the anthropology of Christianity, complexities of religious conversion and social identity, inter-religious dialogue, ecumenism, and World Christianity.
Sun Yong Lee is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History and Ecumenics, studying World Christianity and the history of religions at Princeton Theological Seminary. Her research interests center on the history of Christianity in East Asia and Protestant missions. She is especially interested in women’s experiences in their mission encounters and their participation in the formation of Christianity and social changes. Her research expands to social theory of religion, church-state relations, and politics of religion.