Man requires a ‘Help Meet’, and in every country the infant mind receives its earliest impressions from the female sex. Wherever, therefore, this sex is left in a state of ignorance and degradation, the endearing and important duties of Wife and Mother, cannot be duly discharged, and no great progress in general civilization and morals can be reasonably hoped for.
Some of the first British missionaries to arrive in India were the Baptist missionaries. In 1792, the BMS was founded in England by a small handful of enthusiasts who belonged to the lower strata of society. William Carey, who was apprenticing as a shoemaker, was eager for a mission life abroad. Aware of the difficulties of a foreign station, Carey had certain suggestions for the English missionaries who were venturing to heathen lands. They must have piety, courage and forbearance; leave all the comforts of life behind them; encounter unknown inconveniences and undefined hardships; and be able to survive in a harsh alien land. He emphasized the importance of company, ‘for two, at least, to go together’, and suggested they ‘should be married men’. The wives and family who accompanied them should be wholly employed in providing for them and must know ‘husbandry, fishing, fowling’. They should cultivate a little piece of land, sow their crops and have a few utensils of husbandry, a few articles of stock, a cow and bull and other cattle, preferably ‘of both sexes’. Carey's recommendation is an idealized image evocative of British pastoral domesticity that the missionaries would try to recreate in a distant land. The missionary was expected to live a quiet frugal life with his wife and family, cows and bulls, cultivate his lands and subsist on fishing and fowling.
When Carey first put forward the above views on propagating Christianity in An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, he was a young man in his twenties and had no personal experience of India. But his advice had significant implications for future missionary activities in India. Carey's instructions indicated (1) missionary activities were clearly a career choice only for men, (2) wives were to assist, provide, divide the toil and hardship and (3) the value and utility of such companions was equivalent to cattle.