‘Domestic Life in Palestine’: Evangelical Ethnography — Faith and Prejudice

  • Billie Melman


Sometime in May 1859, the Jerusalem Literary Society advertised a public lecture by Fredrika Bremer, the celebrated Swede novelist and travel-writer, a do-gooder, and, later, leader of Sweden’s national Suffragist movement. Bremer, known by reputation to the members of the small literary and philanthropic community around Christ Church, was to speak twice: once, in the open-air, somewhere near Bethlehem and, a second time indoors, to a select audience of members of the JLS, in the English School.1 The lectures were to be read by a gentleman member of the JLS. Bremer, it seems, acquiesced to the unwritten rule against public speaking by females. Her topic is somewhat hackneyed: Hebrew Women of the Bible and New Testament2 — a popular theme with evangelical writers. But Bremer gives the familiar subject novel stance and one which is rather unorthodox. The entire post-Lapsarian history and the fulfillment of prophecy in the millennium are interpreted in terms of gender. Women, both ‘real’ Christians, that is Western, evangelical women, who are the true inheritors of the Hebrews and Jewish women, the unworthy descendants of the historical Hebrews, are assigned a special role in a universal, providential scheme.3 Women are instrumental in the processes preceding Christ’s Second Advent.


Muslim Woman Jewish Woman Practical Education Arab Woman Domestic Life 
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© Billie Melman 1992

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  • Billie Melman

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