The article is based on a detailed study of the applications of female candidates who applied to the London Missionary Society for consideration as missionaries to serve in the foreign field, from 1875 to 1900. Drawing on the candidates' own letters, formal applications and the selection process as revealed in the archives of the Ladies' Committee of the Society, the article describes the process of professionalisation of the female missionary's role during this period. A textual analysis reveals how this process of professionalisation negotiated the boundaries of gender and class in late nineteenth-century England, maintaining a conventionality through the religious rubric within which the offer to be a lady missionary was constructed. Critical to this religiosity and its ability to twin convention with iconoclasm was the discursive presence of the imperial and colonial other. The article also reflects on themethodological issues of interpreting and re-presenting the narratives of the past from a secular feminist contemporary location.