Good Intentions Gone Awry: Emma Crosby and the Methodist Mission on the Northwest Coast.


309 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-7748-1270-2
DDC 266'.792092





Reviewed by Joan A. Lovisek

Joan A. Lovisek, Ph.D., is a consulting anthropologist and
ethnohistorian in British Columbia.


The title neatly describes the legacy of Emma Crosby, the wife of the well known Methodist missionary Thomas Crosby, who worked among the Tsimshian in 1874. While there is an extensive literature about the work of missionaries, the authors have filled an important void by offering readers the correspondence of Emma (Douse) Crosby.


The book includes not only Crosby’s correspondence (1874–1881), which mostly consists of letters to her mother, but also photographs of family and various mission activities which capture the late 19th century. There is also a helpful genealogy of the Crosby family. Emma Crosby’s letters reveal intimate glimpses of the mother-daughter relationship, Crosby’s relationship to her husband, and her role as missionary’s wife and how Crosby adjusted to living in a Tsimshian community during the late 19th century. The letters are organized by subject headings and are supported by helpful historical commentary. The “good intentions” part of the title relates how Crosby considered it her duty to elevate the status of Native women into a Victorian model of Christian womanhood from what she saw at Fort Simpson as Native despair. Crosby set out to accomplish this “calling” by establishing the Crosby Girls’ Home, in which Native women, mostly mixed bloods, would be taught the basics of household management and would then return to their husbands and families as good Victorian women. But by the time Crosby left the Tsimshian in 1897, her “good intentions” had “gone wrong.” The girls and women who voluntarily attended her school were, after 1891, incarcerated when the Women’s Missionary Society took over the school. Later the school became a residential school. This book contributes to our understanding of the status of women at this time in British Columbia’s history and indirectly reflects upon on the role of Native women. While one might have wished that Crosby had taken more than a “dutiful” interest in the Tsimshian and communicated details about them in her correspondence, the authors more than compensate for this omission by providing valuable cultural and historical context to Emma Crosby’s story.


Hare, Jan, and Jean Barman., “Good Intentions Gone Awry: Emma Crosby and the Methodist Mission on the Northwest Coast.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,