Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lottie Moon's sister, missionary to Palestine and lady physician to Confederate rebels?

Dr. Oriana (Moon) Andrews
and her husband,
Dr. John Summerfield Andrews.
"One of the most famous single women missionaries of all time would have to be Charlotte Moon," I told my Perspectives students. "She and two of her sisters, touched by the revival that swept America just before the Civil War, ended up as missionaries."

"One sister was supposedly the first female doctor south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and ended up going as a medical missionary to Arabs in Palestine, then came home to be a doctor for the Confederate Army."

"I would love to read her story," I added, before going on to tell a little of Lottie's.

Next day, though, I started wondering if this was one of those things I really could learn more about than in days gone by. I might not need to prowl through archives in Virginia; more and more things can be found online!

After a few tries, Google and I came up with a name and even a biographical sketch of Dr. Oriana Moon. There is also this fun dramatic reading which mentions Lottie's sisters alongside Lottie, apparently drawing on the same secondary sources I'd used previously. (I think that would go well in a Perspectives course, as well.)

So, did I have it right? Or what else might be helpful to share?

The Moon girls were certainly a remarkable bunch. Growing up surrounded by books and well supplied with tutors, they were allowed by their parents to pursue their own interests and given educational opportunities usually restricted to sons. I had to smile when I read that their father purchased an unusually large library for Orie,

"...Consisting of the leading histories, poetry, fiction, and scientific works of the time. For the first sixteen years of her life, Orie was an ardent and persistent reader, often so wrapped up in her readings that she refused to stop for meals. Orie seemed to prefer mental nourishment to material food and craved learning..."

After writing a thesis on the relationship between coronary and respiratory diseases, Oriana got her MD in 1857 from a women's medical college in Philadelphia. That's decidedly North of the Mason-Dixon line, and she certainly studied and worked in the company of other female doctors (though, as the article points out, the women were not allowed to practice in Philadelphia hospitals, limiting their work to a clinic the school set up to treat women and destitute patients). Later she did practice medicine in Virginia, though "despite much urging, Dr. Moon consistently declined to 'hang out her shingle' as a general practitioner," at least at that time. Later she did, and further south.

Oriana seems to have been just as outspoken as Lottie, warning another sister's fiance that he must be brave to marry into a family that included someone like herself. Nothing in this article, though, confirms that she was the first female doctor in the South. Have to look elsewhere for that. Meanwhile, I should at least soften my summary with a "one of" or "some say."

Shortly after earning her MD, Oriana returned to Virginia and signed on to accompany her uncle, an ordained minister and physician, as he and his family made an extended "missionary journey" to the Holy Land. "Orie was determined to join Barclay and assist him where possible by providing providing medical services to the Bedouins." Here's a telling vignette:
"She sailed to Europe, carrying for protection a revolver with which she was an expert marksman. In Turkey, while crossing the Bosphorus from Constantinople to Adrianople, Orie hired two boatmen to row her across the water. In an incident she often retold in later years, Orie paid the two men an agreed-upon sum before they started rowing. However, midway in the trip, the two boatmen threatened to turn back unless she paid them a second time. Orie pulled out her revolver and barked the command "Go to Adrianople!" So motivated, the two boatmen rowed with great speed, and when the boat touched the Adrianople shore, they fled with equal haste. Orie proved to be a fearless American that even these Turks respected."
Religious zeal for God's glory does not seem to have played much of a part in Oriana's initial decision to go to Palestine; though raised in the church and in a Christian family, she had never been particularly religious. So much for the revival connection, at least in Oriana's case. But some serious conversations with her uncle on the journey across the Atlantic seem to have had an impact, and she had her uncle baptize her in the Pool of Siloam.

It may, then, be overstating things to call her a missionary doctor in Palestine, without some disclaimers. She was only in the Middle East for 14 months before returning home in 1859. So, similarly, any claim that she only left her missionary calling in the Middle East to patch up Confederate solidiers is misleading. The war didn't start until 1861.

What does seem clear, however, is that her "missionary journey" played a clear part in her personal development, that she felt she made a difference among the Bedouin, and that she looked back on the experience as a significant one. She told the stories for the rest of her life. So, call it a transformative short-term mission trip, rather than a missionary career.

It's clear that when the war broke out, one of Oriana's first thoughts was to offer herself to the Confederacy as a doctor. Until her death in 1883, she served in both informal and formal roles as a physician (sometimes, later, alongside her husband, also a doctor).

Oriana's missionary zeal resurfaces throughout her life as well, as when she set up, led, and preached in an open-air church in a nearby black village. She stood up to threats from the KKK, once again armed and ready to repel them if they carried out a threatened attack against her. And it was while visiting her sister Oriana that Charlotte Moon decided to go to China as a missionary. In this, Lottie was following in the footsteps of another sister, Edmonia, of whom I know little so far. I gather Edmonia got sick and came home, whereas Lottie served in China for more than 30 years. Time for some more digging, eh? I've never even read a proper biography of Lottie, so let me see what I can find out and let you know.

2 comments:

Megan smith said...

Maybe this could be your next book.

KatHat said...

It should definitely be your book!