UBC Graduate Research

Transforming Maggie May to Miss Pu: Neoculturalism Through Missionary Nursing in North China, 1924-1943 Stephens, Jennifer M. L.


Margaret May Prentice writes in her autobiography about the day she told her father, a wheat farmer in eastern Colorado, that she felt her purpose was to be a missionary in Asia. She asked him bluntly, “Dad, do you think you could spare one of your nine children for work in China?” Preparing herself to be a nursing leader in China by carefully planned training in nursing, education, theology, and Mandarin, Margaret Prentice purposefully remained single so she could become a member of the admired Women’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church (WFMS). In 1924 she was assigned to a nursing supervisor position at the renowned Isabella Fisher Hospital in Tientsin (now Tianjin), North China. The Isabella Fisher Hospital was founded in 1881 by Canadian physician and missionary Lenora King. Despite many social and political challenges, it remained the top nursing training school in North China throughout the 1920’s until the 1940’s wartime occupation by the Japanese. It was there that Margaret became Miss Pu. This presentation highlights ongoing research on Margaret May Prentice and her nursing colleagues at the Isabella Fisher Hospital during the Beiyang and Nationalist Governments (from the founding of the Communist Party and into the Second Sino-Japanese War). This particular poster project focuses a lens on her unique role as a respected nursing educator and leader whose work accentuated tensions between Western, allopathic, and Christian influences on the development of nursing as a profession in China. Through published and unpublished sources from both the United States and China, oral history work with family and friends, and referencing of extensive primary autobiographical documents, this historical inquiry investigates the interplay of bicultural nursing that resulted in transculturation of both national and professional identities. Presented at Consortium for Nursing History Inquiry 2013 Symposium

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