1845: Wesleyan Missionary womens’ role in setting Fiji on a road to dependence on imported goods

Women were involved in the process of development in Fiji since missionary wives and other European women arrived there in the 1830s. The wives of Wesleyan missionaries brought with them ideas –  new to Fiji  – about running a household, many of which required goods not available locally.

They introduced different foods, a new idea of work, and new considerations of health and child care, all dependent to some degree on imported items. Since these women were committed to introducing Fijians to these new concepts, we can place them among the early developers at the micro-economic level. The early immigrant homemakers set Fiji on a road to dependence on imported goods.

Culture of imports: The Fijian foods and housewares were not acceptable to them. So they requested these foods from overseas, Britain at first and then Australia, for their own comfort and correct living. At the same time they sought to induce Fijians to obtain these goods in the name of civilization; they were deeply committed to improving the lot of women and children by their own example (Burton and Deane 1936:98). The emphasis here is on these womens involvement at the household level rather than on womens status vis-a-vis that of men. Although the missionaries arrived in a land abundant with foods (Wilkes 1845), they saw the need to import foodstuffs and other goods better suited to their ideas of household management.
The Early Development Of Housekeeping And Imports In Fiji, Nancy J. Pollock Victoria University Wellington, New Zealand. A version of this paper was read at the Pacific History Conference in Fiji in 1985. For references mentioned see Category, “References”.

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