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Title: Missionary Encounters and the Development of Yoruba Women's Spirituality 1842-1930
Author: Abimbola, Adedoyin Olabisi
ISNI:       0000 0001 3391 1060
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2008
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This study investigates the development of Yoruba women's spirituality as it interacted with mission Christianity between1842 and 1930, highlighting three major concerns. The first is that conversion ofYoruba women to Christianity did not automatically transform their traditional beliefs, attitudes and practices as the missionary evangelists thought it would. Rather, the discovery made through this study is that conversion marked the beginning point for Yoruba women's spiritual transformation from their primal understanding of self, the family, the society and the Transcendent. Secondly, the dearth of women's perspectives on religious developments in Africa has led to the portrayal of the experiences of both women and men as being uniform. On the contrary, this study delineates fundamental issues relating to women that hindered them from moving away from their traditional values to embrace Christian attitudes and practices. These first two concerns above lead to the third argument that Yoruba women's spiritual transformation was closely tied to their cosmological worldview; thus precluding them from fully becoming Christians until Christianity was adapted to their cultural context. This study therefore highlights the primacy of Yoruba culture and worldview in women's interactions with missionaries who propagated the Gospel in Yorubaland. While most authors have relied on ethnographical approach, this study follows the examples of scholars such as J. D. Y. Peel and Ade Ajayi to derive the responses of Yoruba women to Christian spirituality from archival records in the form of journals, reports and correspondences of missionaries to Yorubaland, stored iii the archives. Out of a total of twenty four missionaries and their spouses who consistently interacted with Yoruba women in ways that significantly influenced their spirituality, twenty-one were from the CMS, two were Baptists and one was from the Methodist mission. Although Yoruba women, including wives ofYoruba missionaries did not document their religious encounters, the Church Missionary Society (CMS) had an effective arrangement by which its missionaries recorded and sent in details of their daily encounters with the Yoruba from the 1840s to the early 1900s. Similarly, the memoirs of some European women such as Miss Sarah Tucker and Mrs Anna Hinderer are also veritable sources used to evaluate Yoruba women's spiritual transformation. While:; Yoruba women were not deliberately targeted by missionaries, out of eight hundred and forty journal entries evaluated, forty eight per cent recorded encounters with women, either in the market, on the streets, in the blacksmith shop or in shrines where ritual proceedings were carried out. Although the Methodist Missionary Society's archive was consulted, unlike the CMS, the journal entries of their missionaries lacked details of their daily interactions with Yoruba people, especially women who are critical to this study, thus limiting its value for investigating contacts with women. However, other Methodist sources, such as the official magazine, The Gleaner, compensate for this shortfall. While the journals of Thomas Jefferson Bowen, which were later published in book form, are important sources for investigating Baptist work in Yorubaland, it is not clear how they survived while those of other Baptist missionaries such as Edwin Clark and Joseph Harden did not survive. The most critical finding in this thesis is that neither did Yoruba women become fully Christian, nor did Christianity become a Yoruba religion until the periods of absence of many foreign missionaries, first as a result of the American Civil War of the 1860s and then during World \Var I between 1914 and 1918. The first major sign of Yoruba women's spiritual renewal is traceable to the spiritual experiences of Abiodun Akinsowon and Sophie Odunlami who not only revived- aspects of Yoruba women's primal spirituality, but also adapted Christianity and gave it a Yoruba image. Some distinctive features ofYoruba women's spirituality that turned Christianity into a Yoruba religion include re-introduction of their leadership role, introduction of water as a healing agent, acceptance and interpretations of dreams, visions and revelations, and the resuscitation ofYoruba mode ofpraying. Secondly, this thesis establishes the link between African women's primal religious beliefs and practices and the form of their adapted Christian spirituality. While Yoruba women's spirituality went through various stages of quarantine, confrontation, assimilation and adaptation as it interacted with mission Christianity, Yoruba culture and worldview remain prominent features of each stage. Although religious conversions were made at each stage, the attitudes, beliefs and practices which define meaningful relationship with humanity and the Transcendent, were not totally transformed until Christianity was adapted to incorporate significant aspects of the culture and worldview of the Yoruba. The implications to be drawn from this is that for Chiistianity to survive as an indigenous religion, women in each Yoruba generation, will need to look back at Yoruba history, culture and worldview to satisfy their search for meaning.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available