Nellie Arnott's Writings on Angola, 1905–1913: Missionary Narratives Linking Africa and America

SKU: 978-1-60235-141-7

Sarah Robbins and Ann Ellis Pullen

Writing Travel Series
Edited by Jeanne Moskal

2012 Edition Award Honorable Mention, Society for the Study of American Women Writers

Information and Pricing
978-1-60235-141-7 (paperback,  $32.00; £22; €25; $34 CAD;  $34 AUS). © 2011 by Parlor Press. 381 pages, with illustrations, annotations, notes, bibliography, and index.

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Nellie Arnott's Writing on Angola, 1905-1913 recovers and interprets the public texts of a teacher serving at a mission station sponsored by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in Portuguese West Africa. Along with a collection of her magazine narratives, mission reports, and correspondence, Nellie Arnott's Writing on Angola offers a critical analysis of Arnott's writing about her experiences in Africa, including interactions with local Umbundu Christians, and about her journey home to the U.S., when she spent time promoting the mission movement before marrying and settling in California.

Nellie Arnott's Writings on Angola sets Arnott's writing within the context of its historical moment, especially the particular situation of American Protestant women missionaries working in a Portuguese colony. This book responds to recent calls for scholarship exploring specific cases of cross-cultural exchange in colonial settings, with a recognition that no single pattern of relationships would hold in all such sites. Robbins and Pullen also position Arnott's diverse texts within the tradition of feminist scholarship drawing on multifaceted archives to recover women's under-studied publications from previous eras.

Part I presents three approaches to interpreting Arnott's oeuvre: biographical (Chapter 1), historical (Chapter 2), and rhetorical (Chapter 3). Chapters 4, 5, and 6 (Part II) provide an annotated edition of Arnott's public texts, organized into three stages of authorial development, ranging from her initial journey to Africa, to her gradual professionalization as a mission teacher, to her travels home and fundraising while on furlough.

What People Are Saying

Sarah Robbins and Ann Ellis Pullen used Nellie Arnott’s public writings to show how Arnott developed as a writer…. Robbins and Pullen do not hesitate to characterize Arnott’s work as part of a colonial enterprise. Through a careful analysis of her writings, however, they argue that Arnott’s experiences in Angola enabled her to develop her authorial voice, contribute to building an important female literacy network in the United States, and shape the imagination of new constituencies of mission supporters for Africa. (197-98).

—Barbara Reeves-Ellington, writing for Social Sciences and Missions 24 (2011)

Arnott's missionary narratives, which take readers on a fascinating odyssey from the American South to Portuguese West Africa to the golden state of California, demonstrate the complex national and transnational contexts that shaped perceptions about race, class, gender, and religion in the early twentieth century.  Robbins's and Pullen's scrupulous and exhaustive archival research on Arnott's life and public and private writing distinguishes their book from other recovered travel literature. They demonstrate the significance of feminist discursive analysis as a methodology for understanding culture.

—Barbara McCaskill, University of Georgia

In my graduate class, which focuses on American women’s rhetoric and religion, I use Nellie Arnott’s Writings on Angola, as part our examination of the women’s missionary movement and its empowering impact on women. I especially appreciate how Robbins and Pullen's book contributes to my class's discussions of women’s rhetorical practices, the archival recovery of women rhetors, and the value of interdisciplinary inquiries.

—Lisa Shaver, Baylor University

It was with much anticipation that I began reading Nellie Arnott's Writing on Angola, 1905-1913: Missionary Narratives Linking Africa and America.  Most of Ms. Arnott's  time in Angola was spent on the then ABCFM mission station of Kamundongo in the highlands of the then Portuguese colony. Here she learned to function, as a teacher and evangelist, in Umbundu, the language of one of the major groups in Angola and, indeed, one of my “first” languages.   My eagerness was born of the fact that, of my seventeen years in Angola, I spent the first five in Kamundongo (decades after Ms. Arnott’s time), having been born nearby in Chissamba where the mission hospital had a doctor. A major pleasure, then, was the promise of reading about places and people that I would recognize, some because they lived on into my time, many others because of the oral histories recounted by my parents and their colleagues as well as by the parents and elders of my Umbundu friends.  My expectations were more than met.  For several days I read well into the night, scribbling notes I would develop in emails to the authors, and pausing to conjure up an event, face or place once so familiar to me.   For the events and situations recounted in Ms. Arnott’s letters, including her relationships with other missionaries, the Umbundu people and Portuguese authorities, the authors identify patterns and contexts that have enhanced my understanding of the first seventeen years of my life.  An instructive and personally rewarding read!

—Frank Collins, Ph.D., Victoria College, University of Toronto, Canada

About the Authors

Sarah Robbins is the Lorraine Sherley Professor of Literature at Texas Christian University and the author of Managing Literacy, Mothering America (Pittsburgh Press, 2006), which won a Choice award from the American Library Association. She is also the author of The Cambridge Introduction to Harriet Beecher Stowe (Cambridge, 2007). 

Ann Ellis Pullen is Professor of History, Emerita, at Kennesaw State University, where she chaired the Department of History and Philosophy and the Women's Studies Program. She has authored articles on the early twentieth-century interracial movement in the U.S. South in a variety of publications.


Introduction: Missionary Authorship as Network-Building
Part I: Contexts for Reading Nellie Arnott's Writing
1 Nellie Arnott Darling: Traveler in Mission Service
2 Mission Service in National and Transnational Contexts
3 Writing on Multiple Journeys
Part II The Public Writings of Nellie J. Arnott (Darling)
4 Traveling to Portuguese West Africa
5 Woman's Work at a Highlands Mission Station
6 Cultivating Networks of Influence
Appendix 1: Mission Publications' Editing of Arnott's Writing
Appendix 2: ABCFM Missionaries in Angola
Appendix 3: Image Citations and Explanatory Context
About the Authors

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