Marthal Nalini


This article is a cross-cultural study of the work of the first North American single woman missionary educator Isabella Thoburn who was sent overseas by the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The objective of this article is to examine the motives of Isabella, her career in India, and the impact of her work on women’s education. It also highlights the facts that Isabella was an extra-ordinary woman and carved spaces for herself as professional, administrator, mentor, and matriarchs, first in her parent society and then in cross-cultural contexts, for which there was no precedent. The early growth of the institution founded by Isabella enables one to remap the problematic issue of gender and culture. Isabella Thoburn College, one of the liberal Arts women’s colleges in Asia, grew out of Isabella’s class that began with six girls in 1870, and this institution still exists in India.

Author Biography

Marthal Nalini is a permanent faculty in the Dept. of History, Ethiraj College for Women, Chennai (India) for the past 22 years. She has specialized in American Women in India (1870-19480) With Special Reference to Isabella Thoburn, Clara A. Swain and Margaret Bourke-White. As a participant in International and All India Conferences, she has contributed articles on different aspects of historical studies.