Good Intentions Gone Awry
344 pages, 6 x 9
47 b&w illustrations
Release Date:01 Nov 2006
Release Date:18 Jul 2006

Good Intentions Gone Awry

Emma Crosby and the Methodist Mission on the Northwest Coast

UBC Press

Unlike most missionary scholarship that focuses on male missionaries, Good Intentions Gone Awry chronicles the experiences of a missionary wife. It presents the letters of Emma Crosby, wife of the well-known Methodist missionary Thomas Crosby, who came to Fort Simpson, near present-day Prince Rupert, in 1874 to set up a mission among the Tsimshian people.

Emma Crosby’s letters to family and friends in Ontario shed light on a critical era and bear witness to the contribution of missionary wives. They mirror the hardships and isolation she faced as well as her assumptions about the supremacy of Euro-Canadian society and of Christianity. They speak to her “good intentions” and to the factors that caused them to “go awry.” The authors critically represent Emma’s sincere convictions towards mission work and the running of the Crosby Girls’ Home (later to become a residential school), while at the same time exposing them as a product of the times in which she lived. They also examine the roles of Native and mixed-race intermediaries who made possible the feats attributed to Thomas Crosby as a heroic male missionary persevering on his own against tremendous odds.

This book is a valuable contribution to Canadian history and will appeal to readers in women’s, Canadian, Native, and religious studies, as well as those interested in missiology in the Canadian West.


  • 2006, Short-listed - Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Book Prize, BC Book Prizes
  • 2006, Commended - Book Writing Competition on BC History, British Columbia Historical Federation
Good Intentions Gone Awry offers insight into the previously underemphasized role of women in all aspects of missionary life – both as an exploration of the gendered practices within the missionary project that regimented Emma Crosby’s life and the results of the imposition of such practices on Aboriginal girls. The authors invite the reader to accept Emma on her own terms, and offer interpretative tools to make sense of her within her times, without excusing her complacency in the colonialism inherent to Aboriginal missions. Susan Neylan, author of The Heavens Are Changing: Nineteenth-Century Protestant Missions and Tsimshian Christianity
Jan Hare is Anishinaabe and member of the M’Chigeeng First Nation. She teaches in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia. Jean Barman is a well-known historian of British Columbia. She taught for many years in the Department of Educational Studies at UBC and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.



Crosby Family Chronology

Simpson's Early Women Teachers and Missionaries


1 Courtship and Marriage

2 Arrival at Fort Simpson

3 Motherhood

4 Emma Alone

5 A Comfortable Routine

6 Adversity

7 Changing Times

8 Good Intentions Gone Awry

9 Repatriation

Afterword by Caroline Dudoward




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