Monthly Archives: March 2015

Take Three…Hmmm….I Wonder How Many “Takes” This will Take???

So, here is “Take Three” of my revised focus statement/proposal introduction. I’m sure that “Take Three” is not the end…I also hope that the “director” of my production doesn’t want to eventually slam the clapper board (thank you Kate for finding the name of the ‘movie clicky board thing’ – Kate’s definition) and walk away… 🙂


During the time period 1885 – 1910, almost a hundred American women left their homes in the United States (some within a month of marriage) and travelled thousands of miles to East Asia, all in the name of a ‘call’ and a ‘mission’. These women were the first female missionaries to the tiny, very culturally different, country of Korea and their job entailed ministering to their Korean counterpart – the women of the “Hermit Kingdom”. While some arrived as new brides, others faced the peril of the Pacific Ocean crossing alone. They embarked on a career in the mission field as single female missionaries. From the very moment these women arrived in the port of Chemulpo, they experienced a culture vastly different from their own. Most likely, their first steps on Korean soil did not occur until after being carted, piggyback style, across the mud created by the large tidal differences on the eastern shores of the Yellow Sea. Female missionary Elise Shepping once asked a visiting American woman if she had ever been “ubbered”. The woman replied that she had not. Elise then gave her instructions to “select the tallest coolie from the ones you see now wading out from the shore – put your arms firmly around his neck and shut your eyes.”[1]

Cultural differences did not end with being “ubbered”. At the turn of the twentieth century, Korea considered itself to be the most Confucian state in the world.[2] Confucianism and its values, traditions and belief systems differed greatly from the Judeo-Christian traditions of the United States. In light of these differences, how did these American women missionaries create connections with Korean women when their cultural paradigms often opposed and conflicted each other?

Historian Sanjay Subrhamanyam purports that successful encounters between cultures are made; they don’t “just happen.”[3] People are the makers. People build the bridges.[4] According to Subrhamanyam, intermediaries who bridge gaps between cultures, employ improvisation in cross cultural facilitation and participate in mediation between disparate groups practice something he terms as “cultural commensurability.”[5] Subrhamanyam questions the idea that cultures are largely impermeable spheres that are “inaccessible to those who look in from the outside.”[6]

I contend that the American women missionaries built cultural bridges in purposeful actions of commensurability. They purposefully worked to create connections between themselves and the Korean women. American women’s missionary’s work in introducing education and health-care to Korean women opened the door to creative interchanges, which led to formations of understanding as well as productive misunderstandings. I also contend that their non-purposeful, as far as evangelism is concerned, spatial decisions concerning their homes was an important ingredient in their ability to bridge cultural divisions. I argue that their decision to build western style, large homes, actually produced a ‘safe’ space for Confucian women to interact with the American women.

Underlying this argument is the assumption that creative discourse, which includes the creation of understandings as well as productive misunderstandings, helps to bridge a cultural divide. Ideas of Sanjay Subrhamanyam on commensurability support the idea of creative discourse. Also underlying this argument is ways in which I state women see their home, Korean and American. Gaston Bachelard in his work The Poetics of Space addresses the ways in which humans perceive spaces as being ‘warm’ and ‘safe’ or ‘stifling.’[7] (note to self,  Dr. Jones and Dr. Schneider – I really think I need to read Habermas and I will as soon as I can.)

Many scholars of missionary work write about the work in education and medicine of missionary women and may see this work as being similar. This paper, however, will focus intently as the first interactions between Korean and American women and the relationships that develop, not so much at the educational or medicinal efforts of the missionaries. These activities will be looked at only to the extent that the work became a vehicle in developing connections. This paper will also look intently at the ways in which women view their home in Korea and America and how missionary homes become a place that both Korean and American women felt ‘safe’ and could explore cultural differences.

In examining the connections between American women missionaries and Korean women, I will lay a foundation for arguing that women played a large role in the rise of Christianity in Korea. The paper will also show that looking at the relationships and intercultural communication, which develops between people from different cultural backgrounds, creates better understandings of World History at large. In this project, I will use American missionary records, journals from the time period published in America and Korean and dissertations written in Korean and English about Christian Korean Women.

[1] Sarah Lee Vinson Timmons and compiler Hallie paxson Winsborough, eds., Glorious Living: Informal Sketches of Seven Women Missionaries of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (Atlanta, Georgia: Committee onf Woman’s Work, Presbyterian Church, U.S., 1957), 149.

[2] John Berthrong and Evelyn Berthrong, Confucianism: A Short Introduction (Oneworld Publications, 2014).

[3] Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Courtly Encounters: Translating Courtliness and Violence in Early Modern Eurasia (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2012), 212.

[4] Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Interview by Carol Nappi, “Interview with Sanjay Subrahmanyam,” accessed December 3, 2014,

[5] Subrahmanyam, Interview by Carol Nappi, “Sanjay Subrahmanyam Interview.”

[6] Subrahmanyam, Courtly Encounters, 155.

[7] Gaston Bachelard and John R. Stilgoe, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas, Reprint edition (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), xxxv and 111.


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Spring Break and Korean Indie Rock Songs


Is that too strong a word? Maybe…maybe not.

This past week I experienced moments of what I am terming “panic” as well as moments of, “Okay, I’m making progress.” I listened, over and over, to my favorite Korean Indie rock song which promises that “It’s all right”. I also drank copious amounts of coffee thinking I would just really get ahead by staying up, but, in the end, it just kept me up watching movies a couple of nights, because, hey, it was spring break so I might as well indulge in something besides work.

The “panic” came when I realized that the microfilm I had wasn’t helpful…not much anyway. The “panic” eased after a truly late night in front of the computer where, astonishingly, I found a good number of sources online. A trip to Philadelphia to help with my paper on missionary homes for Topics would be nice, but I’m not sure that will happen. The “Okay I’m making progress” came after reading two more books for my project including the preeminent book in the field. And today, Sunday, my friend gave me an article at church that gives a Korean point of view on the houses built by missionaries. While I haven’t translated it yet, I am very glad to have a source with a Korean perspective.

The first book I read was Hyaeweol Choi’s book Gender and Mission Encounters in Korea: New Women Old Ways. In this monograph, Ms. Choi talks about American missionary women’s role in the formation of “modern” women in Korea. While much has been made of the contributions of American women, Choi argues that enlightenment thinkers inside Korea began writing about modernization of Korean women before American women arrived. She also points to the lack of authority American women had even in their “women’s work for women” experiencing their own gender inferiority in a patriarchal world. Choi also argues “the perception of “modern womanhood” among missionary women was cultivated through their encounters with Korean women, who were presumed to be pre-modern, backward, and oppressed.[1] In essence, American women exhibited a racial superiority and gender inferiority.

The Second book I read was Francesca Bray’s Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China. Although written about women in China, this book is very insightful as to the spatial dynamics in a Confucian home. According to Bray, Confucian houses illuminated “the complex structuring of domestic space that embodied in microcosm the hierarchies of gender, generation and rank inherent to the Chinese social order, tying all its occupants into the macrocosm of the polity.”[2]

In essence, the house, instead of being a private space away from society and the state, was a small model of the important Confucian relationships and philosophy that dictated state as well as cultural and societal practices. Although I could not find a similar book on houses in Korea, Confucian principles drove Korean culture and I believe this book will be very helpful in my study of Korean homes.

I also read an article on space and Christian college campuses in China entitled “American Geometries and the Architecture of Christian Campuses in China” by Jeffrey W. Cody. This article very much looked at architectural ideas, however, it was very illuminating on the syncretic approach many Christian organization took when building campuses in China. It appeared in an edited edition entitled China’s Christian Colleges: Cross-Cultural Connections, 1900-1950 edited by Daniel H. Bays and Ellen Widmer.

I also perused or read a number of primary sources. I am adding the bibliography for those below:

Kʻoria Misyŏn Pʻildŭ. Korea Mission Field. 韓國基督教史硏究會, 1919. (The publisher here is showing up as a Chinese publisher,(which zotero picked up) which Chinese was often used at this time in Korea. I will have to find the vernacular Korean and then translate, which I will do.)

Underwood, Lillias H. (Lillias Horton). Underwood of Korea; Being an Intimate Record of the Life and Work of the Rev. H.G. Underwood, D.D., LL. D., for Thiry One Years a Missionary of the Presbyterian Board in Korea. New York, London [etc.] Fleming H. Revell Co, 1918.

Underwood, Lillias H. (Lillias Horton). With Tommy Tompkins in Korea. New York, Chicago [etc.] F.H. Revell Co, 1905.

Underwood, Lillias H. (Lillias Horton). Fifteen Years among the Top-Knots; Or, Life in Korea. Boston, New York [etc.] : American tract society, 1904.

Nisbet, Anabel Major. Day in and Day out in Korea [microform]: Being Some Account of the Mission Work That Has Been Carried on in Korea since 1892 by the Presbyterian Church in the United States. Richmond : Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1919.

  1. Ohlinger, H. G. Appenzeller. The Korean Repository. The Trilingual Press, 1896.

Baird, Annie Laurie Adams. Inside Views of Mission Life. Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1913.

Annie Laurie Adams ) Baird. Daybreak in Korea: A Tale of Transformation in the Far East. Revell, 1909.


[1] Hyæweol Choi, Gender and Mission Encounters in Korea: New Women, Old Ways: Seoul-California Series in Korean Studies, Volume 1 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 13.

[2] Francesca Bray, Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 4.


Filed under Research Methods

The Missionary Home – Article Methodology

Hyaeweol Choi in the article “The Missionary Home as a Pulpit: Domestic Paradoxes in Early Twentieth-Century Korea” uses a spatial analysis in examining Korean women’s interactions with American missionaries’ homes and ideas of domesticity. It examines how these experiences were hybridized and propagated by Bible Women as well as disseminated among Korean women as “home economics”. Ms. Choi argues in the article that these transcultural interactions are best described as producing “a creative tension between devotion to the private domain and active public engagement.”[1]

According to Choi, American missionaries’ homes in Korea created much interest among Korean women. Perhaps due to the time that Americans arrived in Korea, towards the end of the 19th century, and after the development of American businesses that delivered American goods all over the world, American missionaries in Korea recreated American homes on Korean soil. Articles in these homes created great curiosity among Korean women. Items such as typewriters, chairs, tables, (tall ones with chairs) rugs, sewing machines and organs were new to Korean women. Their curiosity brought them to the homes and missionary women used the opportunity to teach domestic skills.

In Choi’s article, the spatial dynamic of the home is central to the analysis. She begins pointing to a spatial analysis in the title, which declares the home as a ‘pulpit’. In the article, Choi elaborates on this idea by pointing to the mission home’s differences materially to Korean homes. She also uses the home to show the ways in which American women distinguished their marital relationships and child-rearing practices from the Korean women’s marital culture and child-rearing methods. Missionary women demonstrated cleanliness, food preparation, sanitation and preservation, “scientific” methods for caring for babies and of course evangelized, all within the walls of their own homes – in essence making the home their pulpit.

In this spatial analysis, Choi illuminates the paradox at the center of the article. American women, on the one hand, teach and espouse the importance of home and domesticity, while on the other, open their homes, making them very public places in which missionary “business” is conducted. Prescriptive expectations often conflicted with reality; however, the missionary women seldom recognized this inconsistency.

[1] Hyaeweol Choi, “The Missionary Home as a Pulpit”, in Divine Domesticities, eds. Hyaeweol Choi, Margaret Jolly, (The Australian National University, 2014).


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Methodologies and Theories – Amazing Stuff

Methodologies and theories – amazingly enough, these are actually very interesting to me.

The methodologies and theories I will likely use in my research encompass ideas on space and cross-cultural connections.

While just learning about spatial methodologies in my Topics class, I was instantly interested in the concept because of a number of references in secondary source literature on American women missionaries in Korea at the turn of the century that point to the use of/building of/importance of the missionary house in missionary work. The house is a space and as such, ideas on space are an interesting methodology to apply to my research. I am currently reading works that use this methodology and works that explain this methodology – most of which are already described in earlier blogs.

I am also very interested in cross-cultural connections. A couple of theories especially interest me in this area. One theory of interest is Sanjay Subrhamanyam’s ideas of commensurability. Historian Sanjay Subrhamanyam purports that successful encounters between cultures are made; they don’t “just happen.”[1] People are the makers. People build the bridges.[2] According to Subrhamanyam, intermediaries who bridge gaps between cultures, employ improvisation in cross cultural facilitation and participate in mediation between disparate groups, something he terms as “cultural commensurability.”[3] Subrhamanyam questions the idea that cultures are largely impermeable spheres that are “inaccessible to those who look in from the outside.”[4] Richard White, author of the well known monograph entitled “The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 also talks about “creative misunderstandings” which lead to cross-cultural understanding which is a fascinating idea to me.[5]

Another theory of interest is Georg Simmel’s ideas on the stranger. Besides actions of commensurability, successful intermediaries also show action commensurate with what sociologist Georg Simmel termed “the stranger.” Simmel states that “in spite of being inorganically appended to it, the stranger is yet an organic member of the group…Only we do not know how to designate the peculiar unity of this position other than by saying that it is composed of certain measures of nearness and distance.”[6] This idea of being appended to a group which produces a “nearness and a distance” is an important characteristic for successful intermediation. This “nearness and distance” works as a bridge as an intermediary is neither fully identified with one group or another, but can produce “nearness” whether through language, gender or efforts of commensurability that produces a space for mediation. I will be looking to see if Korean Bible women, or perhaps even American women missionaries, contain these types of characteristics of a “stranger”.

[1] Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Courtly Encounters: Translating Courtliness and Violence inEarly Modern Eurasia (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2012), 212.

[2] Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Interview by Carol Nappi, “Interview with Sanjay Subrahmanyam,” accessed December 3, 2014,

[3] Subrahmanyam, Interview by Carol Nappi, “Sanjay Subrahmanyam Interview.”

[4] Subrahmanyam, Courtly Encounters, 155.

[5] Richard White, “Creative Misunderstandings and New Understandings,” The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 63, no. 1 (January 1, 2006): 9–14, doi:10.2307/3491722.

[6] Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Three Ways to Be Alien: Travails and Encounters in the Early Modern World (Waltham, Mass: Brandeis, 2011), 176. Ibid., 176. This quote is from Simmel’s work “Exhurs uber den Fremden” translated by Kurt Wolff. See note 10. pp. 212.


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Bible Women and Reformers


Strawn, Lee-Ellen. “Korean Bible Women’s Success: Usint the Anbang Network and Religious Authority of the Mudang.” Journal of Korean Religions 3, no. 1 (April 2012): 117–49.

The article “Protestant Bible Education for Women: First Steps in Professional Education for Modern Korean Women” by Lee-Ellen Strawn argues that the education of Korean Bible women by Protestant women missionaries in the Korean language and the Bible opened up the door for leadership positions for women as well as became the first step in obtaining professional education for women in Korea. Educational opportunities given Korean women by American women missionaries were not based on wealth or social status and enabled women from all levels of society a chance for self-betterment and ultimately social mobility.

Tyrrell, Ian. Reforming the World: The Creation of America’s Moral Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Ian Tyrell’s Reforming the World: The Creation of America’s Moral Empire, is an important source for understanding the impact of American missionaries, not only in the countries that they served, but in America and in the networks that they produced. Tyrell argues that American imperial history cannot be looked at only through the ideas of formal empire as seen in American economics and politics, but must also include the nation’s export of Protestant morals, which helped shaped the course of America’s cultural expansion.

Tyrell points to a number of moral reformers, including missionaries, temperance advocates, and Christian groups such as the YMCA, as creating intersections where moral reform and Protestant evangelical culture collided with US empire building, colonialism, growing ideas of capitalism and politics of race and temperance at home and abroad. Their efforts found them lobbying at home for a “moral” head of the empire while promoting Protestant values across the globe, using inroads created by American interests. This intertwining of “Christian evangelical networks operating on a transnational level and formal empire” form the basis of Tyrell’s work.[1]


[1] Ian Tyrrell, Reforming the World: The Creation of America’s Moral Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).


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