Dr. Katharine Bushnell (Kate) came to Evanston in 1871 at age 17 with her family. Her father had been hired to build the new Grosse Point lighthouse. She attended the Woman’s College of Northwestern University and then received her medical degree from the Chicago Women’s Medical College. In 1879 she travelled to China as a medical missionary for the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Church in 1879 and was there until 1882. She returned to the U.S. unwell and somewhat disheartened at the missionary project.
She became active in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union upon her return and took up the work of promoting “social purity” for the organization. The cause of social purity was gaining ground – and the need for fair treatment and adequate care for women caught in the sex trade became Bushnell’s mission. One of her first campaigns took her to the lumber towns in Wisconsin. She later continued this work globally, in India, Australia and New Zealand, and became a leader in the global social purity movement.
As a theologian, Bushnell authored several pamphlets and her book God’s Word to Women is considered an early and groundbreaking study of what the bible really says about the role of women.