Until fairly recently, Arab women rarely received professional health care, since few women doctors had ever practiced in Arabia and their culture forbade them from consulting male doctors. Not surprisingly, Dr. Mary Bruins Allison faced an overwhelming demand when she arrived in Kuwait in 1934 as a medical missionary of the Reformed Church of America. Over the next forty years, "Dr. Mary" treated thousands of women and children, faithfully performing the duties that seemed required of her as a Christian—to heal the sick and seek converts.
These memoirs record a fascinating life. Dr. Allison briefly describes her upbringing and her professional training at Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. She then focuses on her experiences in Kuwait, where women of all classes, including royalty, flocked to her care. In addition to describing many of her cases, Dr. Allison paints a richly detailed picture of life in Kuwait both before and after the discovery of oil transformed the country. Her recollections include invaluable details of women's lives in the Middle East during the early and mid-twentieth century. They add a valuable chapter to the story of modern medicine, to the largely unsuccessful efforts of the Christian church to win converts in the Middle East, and to the opportunities and limitations that faced American women of the period.
Dr. Allison also worked briefly in Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and India, and she includes material on each country. The introduction situates her experiences in the context of Middle Eastern and medical developments of the period.
"Dr. Mary Allison has written a fascinating book about her nearly forty years as a medical missionary in the Arabian Gulf. . . . Dr. Mary in Arabia is a valuable addition to the writings of foreigners about the Middle East. . . . Mary Allison provides detailed information on many aspects of life in the region to readers with few contemporary native sources at their disposal. . . . The fact that she is a complicated and interesting human being adds to the pleasure of reading what she has to say about her profession and the places where she practiced it."
—Middle East Journal