Daughters of India is the third novel to appear after Charles Pearce's Love Besieged (2003) and Maud Diver's Lilamani (2004), as part of OUP India's efforts to publish lesser-known Raj fiction.
Margaret Wilson's Daughters of India, first published in 1928, explores the relationship between the two main American characters, Davida Baillie, a missionary teacher (and thinly-veiled portrait of Wilson herself), and John Ramsey, her superior in the mission in Aiyanianwala, their work with the Christian and Muslim communities from the Flowery Basti, and the breaking up of a kidnapping ring in the nearby village of Pir Khanwala.
The novel is of particular interest to the postcolonial reader because it offers a broader perspective on the sociology of India in the early twentieth century than can be found in most Anglo-Indian (Raj) missionary novels of the time. Moreover, as an American and a missionary, Wilson was located on the margins of the Anglo-Indian society, a position which is reflected in the fresh perspective she offers of the imperial experience.
This new edition of Wilson's Daughters of India includes a detailed introduction, a chronology of Margaret Wilson, a map, and extensive explanatory notes, which provide the reader with useful critical commentary to the novel.
Margaret Wilson (1882-1973) served as a missionary in Punjab, India, between 1904 and 1910. Her two novels and eight short stories set in India draw on her experiences as a missionary.
Ralph Crane is Associate Professor and Head of the School of English, Journalism and European Languages, at the University of Tasmania, Australia.
Margaret Wilson was born in 1882 in the small farming town of Traer, Iowa in the American mid-wet, the daughter of a Scottish Presbyterian farmer and livestock trader. After graduating from the University of Chicago in 1904, she enlisted as a missionary in the service of the United Presbyterian church of North America and was sent to the Punjab in northern India. During the six years she spent in the Punjab she worked as a teacher and supervisor at the Gujranwala Girls' School and as an assistant to Dr Maria White at the Sailkot Hospital. She returned to the United States in 1910 following about of typhoid, mentally and physically drained by her missionary work.
After publishing two poems under the pseudonym 'Elizabeth West,' Wilson turned to fiction, and between 1908 and 1921 she published eleven stories in McClure' Magazine, Harper's Weekly, Atlantic Monthly, and Asia (She published two more stories in the early 1930s.) The reputation she achieved as a short-story writer was largely based on the series of eight 'Tales of a Polygamous City' which drew on her experiences as a missionary in India-the first six of which were published under the pseudonym 'An Elderly Spinster'; the final two under her own name. Despite her early success as a writer of short fiction, Wilson is now, if at all, remembered for her novels, and her work has received scant critical attention. In her day, however, she was a popular writer who published eight adult novels: three American novels, including her first, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Able Mclaughlins (1923); two Indian novels, Daughters of India (1928) and Trousers of Taffeta (1929); and three novels which focus on issues of justice, crime, and punishment, the last of which, The Law and the McLaughlin's (1936), revisits the family of her first novel. She also published a novel for children, The Devon Treasure Mystery (1939)
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