Sharper Tools: Missionary Women's Lexicography in Asia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Discussing characteristics of nineteenth-century missionary women’s lives abroad, Russell demonstrates that the colonial, socio-political, and technological contexts involved in missionary work in Asia made dictionary-making a possible and appropriate employment for American women. Women involved in missionary work often enjoyed more opportunities for equality in education, allowing for language acquisition and scholarly pursuits that may not have been possible in their home country. These women gained linguistic proficiency through varied interactions—religious, educational, and otherwise—with members of their communities, and in many cases developed pragmatic lexicographical methods that tended to be less prescriptive and more inclusive and appreciative of native languages, in contrast to the colonializing discourse that characterized studies produced by male missionaries.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Whole World in a Book
Subtitle of host publicationDictionaries in the Nineteenth Century
EditorsSarah Ogilvie, Gabriella Safran
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages276
ISBN (Print)978-0-19-091319-9
StatePublished - 2019


  • colonial, Asia, women, missionaries, dictionary-making, education, lexicographical methods, equality


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