America's first unmarried female missionaries, women who went out to Asia and Africa in the early to middle nineteenth century, chose lives as intense and demanding as any man's. They chose the foreign mission vocation despite the belief, strong in their era, that women should accept the constraints and comforts of their “proper sphere,” the home. To make their decision, these women struggled with two sets of ideas which coexisted in tension: equality of all persons before God, and the ideology of “woman's sphere.” As persons of faith they could respond to God's commands in the same way as men without theological challenge, because equality of all persons before God was a major strand in their Christian tradition. As nineteenth-century women, however, they were asked to accept lowered status and protective restrictions, in keeping with woman's sphere ideology. These women chose to become missionaries, compromising on second-class status and protective restrictions. In their view, the missionary vocation was worth the cost of compromise.