The subtitle is a more accurate accounting of the book’s contents, as it focuses rather narrowly on one missionary family. The Gulicks did not invest and grow rich in the islands like many of the missionaries you’ve heard of. Instead, for these pious New Englanders, spreading Christendom was the job du jour.
Peter and Fanny spent nearly half a century in the Hawaiian kingdom, ranging from a hardscrabble existence on Molokai to helping found Punahou School, and their efforts not only helped draw Hawaii into America’s political orbit, argues Putney; they helped preserve Hawaiian culture by bringing it into the modern age.
"MISSIONARIES IN HAWAI’I — THE LIVES OF PETER AND FANNY GULICK, 1797-1883"
By Clifford Putney
(University of Massachusetts Press, $34.95)
The Gulicks of Massachusetts are today mostly remembered as the founders of the Camp Fire Girls, and Gulick Avenue in Kalihi is also a reminder of their sojourn here.
"Missionaries in Hawai’i" is a clearly written and well-illustrated account of these foot soldiers in God’s missionary army. It is also rather limited in its appeal to the general reader.
Putney also doesn’t seem to answer the first question that pops into a reader’s head: Why the Gulicks? What led him to this particular couple?
If you a have a shelf devoted to missionary history, this book deserves a place on it.