The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996 Page: 425
1996 Book Reviews 425
A Contest of Faiths: Missionary Women and Pluralism in the American Southwest. By
Susan M. Yohn. (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995. Pp. xi+266.
Acknowledgments, introduction, bibliography, index. ISBN o-8014-8273-9.
A Contest of Faiths is a work of women's, intellectual, and institutional history
which illuminates the complex interaction between Hispano- and Anglo-
Americans in the Southwest in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
By tracing the history of Presbyterian women missionaries to northern New
Mexico, the author has admirably documented their shift from evangelical pro-
claimers of the Gospel to vigorous proponents of social reform, as they attempt-
ed to Americanize the Hispanics and inculcate Anglo values of good citizenship
The principal arena for women missionaries in New Mexico was education;
they founded schools in isolated regions and taught generations of Hispanic
children. Americans in general and Presbyterians in particular had confidence
that education would transform and enlighten individuals for the greater good
of the whole nation.
Yohn shows that these middle-class Protestant women experienced "a tension
between their need to earn a living and a desire, born of their religious convic-
tions, to do useful work" (p. 4). As they fulfilled their vocational commitment,
they worked within a complex cultural, political, and social environment which
altered their goals from religious conversion to social reform and uplift. She
offers the interpretation that "evangelical Protestantism, and evangelical
Protestant women in particular, played a significant part in educating a political
constituency about the need for and efficiency of the emerging welfare state" (p.
8). Yohn places these missionary women in the context of the "larger ideological
transformation taking place" in New Mexico and the United States.
A Contest of Faiths is clearly written, thoroughly researched, and carefully
nuanced. Avoiding the temptation to glorify the exploits of the missionary
women, Yohn has shown them to be earnest and courageous, as well as some-
times culturally myopic. This book is a splendid addition to the literature of the
American West, Hispanic and Anglo women, and social reform. Students of
church history will find it helpful in understanding the role of women in the
missionary movement and the church's shift from evangelical goals to more
pragmatic civic goals.
Midland FANE DOWNS
Race and Labor zn Western Copper. By Philip Mellinger. (Tucson: University Press
of Arizona, 1995. Pp. 269. Introduction, notes, index. ISBN o-81651477-1.
Philip Mellinger clearly states his thesis at the outset: "This book is a history of
significant social change among a region of working people" (p. to). Though
Butte, Montana, receives short shrift and Mellinger focuses primarily on
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996, periodical, 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101217/m1/487/ocr/: accessed September 27, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.