- Swain, Clara
- ( 1834-191 0 )Methodist missionaryClara Swain was born in Elmira, New York, on July 18, 1834. While teaching school, she read correspondence from a female physician noting the need for more women doctors. She moved to Philadelphia to attend the Women's Medical College.In 1869, women in the Methodist Episcopal Church (now a constituent part of the United Methodist Church) organized the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society, with the idea of extending the Gospel "to women by women." While still studying medicine, Swain heard of the society's plans to send a doctor to India and applied for the position. She was selected and became one of the two first female missionaries commissioned by the society, the other being Isabella Thoburn.Swain arrived in Bareilly, India, on January 20, 1870, and immediately went to work. Within the first year, she treated more than 1,300 patients and trained a number of women to assist her. Apart from a three-year furlough (1876-80), she remained at Bareilly until 1884. That year she traveled to Khetri State in Rajputana to treat the Rani Saheba. Her treatment worked, and she was offered a position at court to attend to the health of the women and, in her spare time, operate a clinic and a girls' school. She seized the opportunity to work where Christianity was otherwise not present, without any expense to the society. She stayed in Rajputana for the next 12 years until she retired due to ill health in 1896.Swain died on Christmas Day, 1910, in Castile, New York. The work she began in Bareilly as a clinic for women and children evolved into the Clara Swain Hospital, the oldest and largest Methodist hospital in India.See also medical missions.Further reading:■ Wade Crawford Barclay, History of Methodist Missions, vol. 3, Widening Horizons, 1845-1895 (New York: The Board of Missions of the Methodist Church, 1957)■ Dana L. Robert, ed., Gospel Bearers, Gender Barriers: Missionary Women in the Twentieth Century (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Press, 2002)■ Dorothy Clarke Wilson, Palace of Healing The Story of Dr. Clara Swain, First Woman Missionary Doctor, and the Hospital She Founded (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.