Missionaries in Hawai'i: The Lives of Peter and Fanny Gulick, 1797-1883

Missionaries in Hawai'i: The Lives of Peter and Fanny Gulick, 1797-1883

by Clifford Putney
     
 

Ever since Protestant missionaries from the United States first reached Hawai'i in 1820, they have inspired conflicting passions. In evangelical circles, the missionaries are praised for christianizing Hawai'i, transforming Hawaiian into a written language, and inoculating the islanders against smallpox. But this celebratory assessment is rejected by modern-day

Overview

Ever since Protestant missionaries from the United States first reached Hawai'i in 1820, they have inspired conflicting passions. In evangelical circles, the missionaries are praised for christianizing Hawai'i, transforming Hawaiian into a written language, and inoculating the islanders against smallpox. But this celebratory assessment is rejected by modern-day Hawaiian nationalists, who excoriate the missionaries as advance agents of U.S. imperialism.

In this biography of pioneer missionaries Peter and Fanny Gulick, Clifford Putney offers a balanced view of their contributions. He says the nationalists are right to credit the missionaries with drawing Hawai'i into America's political orbit, but argues that the missionary enterprise helped in some ways to preserve key elements of Hawaiian culture.

Based primarily on letters, journals, and other archival materials, Putney's book provides readers with a detailed portrait of the lives of Peter and Fanny Gulick. Inspired by America's Second Great Awakening to spread the Gospel overseas, the Gulicks voyaged to Hawai'i in 1828 and lived there for the next forty-six years, actively proselytizing and working to change the islands. On Kaua'i, they helped to ensure the success of Hawai'i's first sugar plantation and acquainted Hawaiians with inventions such as the wagon. On Moloka'i (later the site of a leper colony) the couple struggled merely to survive. And on O'ahu, they took up ranching and helped to found Punahou School, the alma mater of President Barack Obama.

While laboring in Hawai'i, the Gulicks interacted with kings, queens, and other historically important figures, and Putney chronicles those relationships. He also explores issues of race and gender, and sheds new light on the democratization of government, the spread of capitalism, and the privatization of land. From these last two developments, a number of missionaries grew immensely rich, but the Gulicks did not, and neither did their descendants. A group that includes influential missionaries, educators, and physical fitness experts, the descendants of Peter and Fanny have had numerous books written about them, but Putney is the first to write extensively about the progenitors of the Gulick clan.

University of Massachusetts Press

Editorial Reviews

Paul Burlin

Extremely well researched and well written. I think it will make a lasting contribution to the history of missionaries in Hawai'i.

The New England Quarterly

Putney's introduction is a useful condensed overview of the motivating forces behind the American missionary movement, including nineteenth-century theology and views on race and ethnicity.

American Historical Review

Putney tells the Gulicks' life stories with an assurance born of meticulous research and attention to contextual detail.... Not framed as a tale of heroic deeds, Putney's narrative sustains an interest through his sketching of the complex exchanges between the New Englanders and the Native Hawaiian people.... He points to the rigidities, self-discipline, and sacrifices that marked the missionaries' experiences with a notable compassion for human frailties combined with a gently wry humor.

The Hawaiian Journal of History

This well written and readable work includes seven chapters that are divided both chronologically and, more importantly, according to the geographical location of the Gulicks. Thus, it starts with Peter and Fanny's early life and upbringing in New England and New York, continues with the couple's mission work at various stations in Hawai'i, and ends with their move to Japan and their eventual deaths in that country.... Putney's monograph will be most appreciated by the general public and scholars of missionary history in Hawai'i.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Peter and Fanny spent nearly half a century in the Hawaiian kingdom, ranging from a hardscrabble existence on Molokai to helping found Punahou School, and their efforts not only helped draw Hawaii into America's political orbit, argues Putney; they helped preserve Hawaiian culture by bringing into into the modern age.

Pacific Historical Review

Meticulously researched, Missionaries in Hawai'i may prove an indispensable reference for specialists. Missiologists will doubtless appreciate both Putney's intimate familiarity with Gulick family history and his contextualization of their work.

The Catholic Historical Review

Putney raises his own important historiographical issue by pointing to the need for complex, balanced histories of the mission and missionaries that are neither hagiographic nor strictly condemnatory. In his text, the author does not shy away from critiques of the Gulicks; admitting that "their religious zealand cultural parochialism acted as blinders, preventing them from seeing much value in traditional Hawaiian society" (p. 157).... Putney's biography of the Gulicks adds important knowledge about missionary lives in Hawai'i to previous understandings. Contextualized as a view of Hawai'i from English-language sources, it is a recommended read.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558499911
Publisher:
University of Massachusetts Press
Publication date:
12/31/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
248
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.70(d)

What People are saying about this

Paul Burlin
This book is extremely well researched and well written. I think it will make a lasting contribution to the history of missionaries in Hawai'i. (Paul Burlin, author of Imperial Maine and Hawai'i: Interpretative Essays in the History of Nineteenth-Century American Expansion)

Meet the Author

Clifford Putney is assistant professor of history at Bentley University and author of Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880--1920.

University of Massachusetts Press

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