“Subway Women” and the American Near East Relief in Anatolia, 1919–1924

  • Anat Lapidot-Firilla


The history of the twentieth century, noted Akira Iriye, was written mainly as the history of states, but at least in the American context should be viewed mainly as a history of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (Iriye 1999: 425). While NGOs became part of the research mainstream in certain areas, mostly among social scientists, historians have been slow to make use of the literature and use it in their writings on the history of the twentieth century (ibid.: 424). What is true for American history is also very much the case for Middle East history. Indeed, with few exceptions most diplomatic historians who focus on the late-Ottoman and early—Turkish Republic period have ignored the importance of international NGOs and concentrated mainly on official diplomacy at a state-to-state level. One outcome of this neglect is the belated acknowledgment of the contribution of such organizations as Near East Relief (NER) to the spread of American values, culture, and products abroad. Another result of overlooking international NGOs was the sidelining of women, central activists in such organizations, to the margins of diplomatic history. This chapter seeks to demarginalize women’s activity as well as to decode the nature of the religion-gender-politics triangle in which women operated and that they helped to shape.


Middle East Rescue Home Christian Woman Greek Hospital Image Courtesy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Acheson, B. 1924. The Institutional Child. The New Near East, January, p. 15.Google Scholar
  2. Berghahn, Volker R. 1999. Philanthropy and Diplomacy in the “American Century.” Diplomatic History 23 (3): 393–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Daniel, Robert L. 1970. American Philanthropy in the Near East1820–1960. Athens: Ohio University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Douglas, Aim. 1977. The Feminization of American Culture. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  5. Dwight, Henry Otis. 1901. Constantinople and Its Problems: Its People, Customs, Religions, and Progress. Illustrated. New York: Fleming H. Revell.Google Scholar
  6. Earle, E. M. 1929. American Missions in the Near East. Foreign Affairs 7(3): 398–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eliot, Mable E. 1927. The Near East Still Needs a Great Physician. The New Near East, September, p. 14.Google Scholar
  8. Gagan, Rosemary. 2004. Gender, Work and Zeal: Women Missionaries in Canada and Abroad. Labour/Le Travail 53 (Spring): 44 pars. (accessed August 7, 2008).
  9. Grabill, Joseph L. 1971. Protestant Diplomacy and the Near East: Missionary Influence on American Policy, 1810–1927. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  10. Greene, Joseph K. 1916. Leaving the Levant. Boston: The Pilgrim Press.Google Scholar
  11. Iriye, Akira. 1999. A Century of NGOs. Diplomatic History 23 (3): 421–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Karakisla, Yavuz Selim. 1999. Savas Yetimleri ve Kimsesiz Çocuklar: Ermeni mi, Turk mü?. Toplumsal Tarih, Eylül, 69: 46–55.Google Scholar
  13. Lipsky, Michael. 1980. Street-Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  14. Lybyer, A. H. 1924. America’s Missionary Record in Turkey. Current History 19 (5): 802–10.Google Scholar
  15. Malakasian, Mark. 1984. The Disintegration of the Armenian Cause in the United States, 1918–1927. IJMES 16 (3): 339–65.Google Scholar
  16. Merk, Frederick. 1966. Manifest Destiny and Mission in American History. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  17. Moranian, Susan E. 2003. “The Armenian Genocide and American Missionary Relief Efforts.” In America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915. ed. Jay Winter. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Nordmann, Bernhard F. 1929. American Missionary Work Among American in Turkey (1830–1923). Abstract of Ph.D. thesis. University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois.Google Scholar
  19. Nussbaum, Martha. 2001. Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Robert, Dana. 1997. American Women in Mission: A Social History of Their Thought and Practice. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Rosenberg, Emily S. 1999. Consuming Women: Images of Americanization in the American Century. Diplomatic History 23 (3): 479–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Singh, Maina Chawla. 2000. Gender, Religion and “Heathen Lands”: American Missionary Women in South Asia (1860s–1940s). New York/London: Garland Publishing.Google Scholar
  23. Thorne, Susan. 2006. Religion and Empire. In At Home With the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World, ed. Catherine Hall and Sonya Rose. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Tibawi, Abdul Latif. 1966. American Interests in Syria, 1800–2900: A Study of Educational Literary and Religious Work. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  25. Welter, Barbara. 1976. The Feminization of American Religion: 1800–1860. In Dimity Convictions: The American Woman in the Nineteenth Century, ed. B. Welter. Athens: Ohio University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and the Women’s Studies in Religion Program, Harvard Divinity School 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anat Lapidot-Firilla

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations