Change Over Time – Δ/t – And History

In my previous world of mathematics, change over time looked like this: Δ/t.

Even now, when historians talk about change over time, this is what first comes to mind. Symbols. Equations. Δ/t….But that is changing. I am changing. My ideas of history are changing. Yes, indeed there is a Δ/t in my understanding of history just as Δ/t is an important concept in history.

For me, change over time in studying to be a historian involves, mostly, different ways of looking at history and asking questions of history. It involves theories, methodologies, historiographies (and my place in them ahhh!!!!!!!!!!!). It involves honing in, looking closely at particular time periods, but also in extending out, in expanding my horizons in looking at historical processes and cultural dynamics. For me, it also opens up a challenge – a challenge to write academically, while still wanting to write something my mother would want to read.

I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey so far, although I have crashed at times, (like last night) from exhaustion. (Fell asleep at the computer at 7:00.) And although the trek is difficult at times, I look forward to next year and the continuing changes that will come.

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Reading for this Week

And the reading goes on, and on, and on…I’m so glad I like to read.

This week I read three more article by Hyaeweol Choi, two of which I believe are significant in my research area.

Choi, Hyaeweol. “In Search of Hidden Histories, Agency and Global Network: A Response to the Articles on Women and Christianity in East Asia.” Journal of World Christianity 3, no. 1 (January 31, 2010): 67–76.

In this article Hyaeweol Choi critiques three articles written about Christian women in East Asia. She argues that the thread that runs through all of the pieces is the idea that “religious encounters are examples of “transnational” encounters”. (68) Religion has played a large role in shaping transnational encounters and produced hybridized religions in encountered territories.

A couple of important ideas from the article she critiques include:

* One author argues that when someone chooses a “new” religion like Christianity, they do so more from an affinity to the differences to the indigenous religion rather than similarities.

* Choi points out that new research is showing some Confucian women kept close ties with their natal family and some women were registered as heads of households.

The Second article was:

Hyaeweol Choi. “Women’s Work for ‘Heathen Sisters’: American Women Missionaries and Their Educational Work in Korea.” Acta Koreana 2 (July 1999): 1–22.
This article is extremely helpful in enlightening my project. In this work, Choi argues that American missionary women, in their early educational work with Korean girls, emphasized traditional womanhood and centered their curriculum on domesticity in order to be acceptable to traditional  roles for Korean women. She also argues that the American missionary women’s project was less about “westernizing” Korean women than in cross-cultural sharing.

Choi explores the first years of education work for girls in Korea. According to Choi, American women missionary began slowly – adapting the curriculum to Korean expectations. It was only after they earned the trust of Koreans that they began to advocate for a change in the status as well as the traditional customs pertaining to the role of Korean women.

Also, here is another book on missionary encounters…

Yannakakis, Yanna. The Art of Being In-between: Native Intermediaries, Indian Identity, and Local Rule in Colonial Oaxaca. Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2008.

In this work, Yannakakis uncovers the lack of commensurability exercised by Dominican missionary priests in their work in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Instead of looking for some kind of commensurability or grounds for mediation, the Dominican’s first actions were often violent in nature and were met with violence in return. The Dominicans did not attempt any kind of cross-cultural understanding with villagers. In reality, the Dominicans often reacted violently to perceived idol worship in Oaxaca. After the Cajonos Rebellion, a previously closed Prison of Perpetual Idolatry was reopened under Vargas’s Dominican Superior, Bishop Maldonado. Maldonado also instituted other reforms, including reforms that placed secular clergy in the region. This secular clergy made no attempt to learn the native language. And in a further push away from native language acquisition, in 1769, the archbishop of Mexico in a letter to the Council of the Indies argued for the imposition of a Spanish only policy in all the regions of Mexico. These actions do not point towards attempts at commensurability.  They did not append themselves to the group and develop a “nearness” that would help bridge understanding.

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Guest Lecturer – Dr. Ma

Thursday May 23rd, Dr. Tehyun Ma spoke about the sinicization of Taiwan during the years immediately after the Second Sino-Japanese War (known in the west as WWII). Dr. Ma’s argument focused on the fact that efforts by the Chinese in governing Taiwan  as well as, “sinicizing” Taiwan in the years immediately after the war proved fairly ineffective. At the time of the Chinese take over of Taiwan by the Guomingdong, Taiwan had been under Japanese colonizing rule for fifty years. Taiwan was also known as Japan’s “model” colony.

During Taiwan’s colonial period, Japan exerted a strict, but efficient rule. While Japan insisted on assimilation programs for the Taiwanese, including Japanese language and religion assimilation, economic conditions for the Taiwanese people improved under the Japanese. The Japanese bureaucracy also proved to be responsive to the Taiwanese population. Because of the duration of the colonization as well as language and culture assimilation, the definition of Taiwanese identity came into question. Many Taiwanese identified as Japanese.

At the end of the war, many Taiwanese still welcomed the Chinese Guomingdong and hoped for greater freedoms from the Nationalist Chinese and an end to their position as second-class citizens. After only a few months, however, it became clear that the Taiwanese exchanged one colonial government for another. The GMD used a very heavy-handed approach to their sinicization of Taiwan including official language declarations, book burnings and a heavy influx of new textbooks and teacher change. These heavy handed policies along with an inefficient bureaucracy led to dissatisfaction and violence which led to martial law which lasted until 1980. Despite these policies to return the Taiwanese people to their traditional Han ancestry, the policies proved fairly ineffective and it wasn’t until the 1950s and the large influx of main-land Chinese at the end of the Chinese Civil War, that significant progress in the sincization of Taiwan was accomplished.

This talk increased my understanding of the differences between to the two largest colonies of Japan, Korea and Taiwan, in the years after the end of colonization. The Korean’s experience under Japanese colonization differed widely from the Taiwanese. Very few Koreans identified with the Japanese and a strong movement of Korean nationalism emerged during the colonizing years which actually split into two different political camps, one centered on Russia and communism and one centered on the United States and democracy. After the war, these two competing ideologies eventually led to the Korean War and a North and South Korea. The power vacuums in the two different countries produced difficulties and violence despite the differing political structures. The violence, death toll and lasting political splits, however, were more acute in Korea.

I really enjoyed Dr. Ma’s talk. It is, I believe, the first talk that I have been to that I had a good background in the history – or wasn’t overly theoretical – as I have been to a number of ASPECT talks. Therefore, it was very enjoyable.

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I’m Tired…But It’s a Good Tired

I’m tired…but it’s a good tired.

I finished a multiple day marathon of work and now this post, if you don’t count needing to read 170 pages of Jacques Derrieda, is my last thing for the week. (I am playing mind tricks and telling myself that Derrida is next week. Don’t tell me next week starts tomorrow.)

Well without further ado, I will proceed with this post before I completely descend into the incomprehensible world of the rambling, incoherent, weary grad student.


Thigpen, Jennifer. Island Queens and Mission Wives: How Gender and Empire Remade Hawai’i’s Pacific World. 1 edition. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

In Island Queens and Mission Wives: How Gender and Empire Remade Hawai’i’s Pacific World, Jennifer Thigpen presents a well-researched study of the relationships between Hawaiian royal women and American missionary wives, centered on gift-giving and receiving. Thigpen argues that it is these female relationships which eventually proved pivotal to the mission’s success and vital for the establishment of American influence in Hawai’i’. It also helps illuminate the nature of American expansion around the world.

Island Queens and Mission Wives adds significant insight into the scholarship on Protestant women missionaries. By drawing out the relationship between the missionary wives and the Hawaiian women, Thigpen shows ways in which both groups negotiated difference and misunderstanding to find a place of mutual benefit. This work contributes to the ever-expanding research on the contributions of American women missionaries that challenge 19th century ideas of woman’s “proper place”. It also helps historians to rethink the role of American women in the process of American expansion and influence on the global stage.


Metcalf, Alida C. Go-Betweens and the Colonization of Brazil: 1500-1600. Annotated edition edition. University of Texas Press, 2013.
Metcalf’s Go-betweens and the Colonization of Brazil chronicles the interactions between Jesuit priests and the indigenous population of Brazil. Initial Jesuit contact shows a good deal of effort on the part of the priests to establish a more commensurate relationship. Instead of writing off the indigenous language as incapable of communicating Christian principles, instead they decided that, “Some things we must explain by roundabout means” (91). These initial decisions, however, gave way to more heirarchical determinations for dealing with native Brazilians in ensuing years.
Rafael, Vicente L. Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Conversion in Tagalog Society Under Early Spanish Rule. Durham: Duke University Press Books, 1993.
Vincente Rafael in Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Conversion in Tagalog Society Under Early Spanish Rule points out the importance of indigenous language acquisition. He argues that it is the vernacular that forms the “intersection of the local with the global” and becomes the “site of new social formations and shifting power relations.”[1] Language acquisition, especially vernacular language acquisition, then becomes pivotal in establishing new ideas of social configuration, as well as projecting changing power dynamics and intimating cultural difference. It is also a key to understanding existing social and cultural paradigms and institutions. Individuals who are successful intermediaries must articulate ideas of change in ways that are meaningful “enough” to produce some kind of cross-cultural understanding.
[1] Rafael, Vincente LContracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Conversion in Tagalog Society Under Early Spanish Rule, (Durham: Duke University Press Books, 1993), xv.


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Readings and Peer Reviewing

Readings for this week:

Choi, Hyaeweol. “‘Wise Mother, Good Wife’: A Transcultural Discursive Construct in Modern Korea.” Journal of Korean Studies 14, no. 1 (2009): 1–33. doi:10.1353/jks.2009.0004.

In this article, Choi argues that Protestant American women missionaries “woman’s work for woman” and their introduction of education for Korean women and ideas of Victorian domesticity, as well as their ideas of the nuclear family and “co-serving” with their husbands helped to create the “Wise Mother, Good Wife” ideal of the modern Korean woman. The idea of “Wise Mother, Good Wife” in the Korean context is a mixture of ideas taken from the “Wise Mother, Good Wife” ideas from Japan and the American missionaries Western ideas of domesticity.

Choi, Hyaeweol. “Women’s Literacy and New Womanhood in Late Choson Korea.” Asian Journal of Women’s Studies 6, no. 1 (March 30, 2000): 88.

Due to Confucian ideas of woman’s place, many Korean women were uneducated. In this article, Choi argues that American missionaries, especially women missionaries and Korean intellectuals were the two groups that contributed most significantly to the spread of literacy among Korean women.

Choi, Hyaeweol. “The Visual Embodiment of Women in the Korea Mission Field.” Korean Studies 34, no. 1 (2010): 90–126.

American women missionaries used photography as a means to communicate with their supporters at home. Today, through analysis of this photography, historians may use it as a way to give a voice to the women of Korea, who were often illiterate.

Choi, Hyaeweol. “Christian Modernity in Missionary Discourse from Korea, 1905-1910.” East Asian History 29(2005):39-69.

In this article, Choi illuminates ways in which the Christian discourse of American missionaries championed Christian morality as the driving force for modernity. This study especially looks at the politically volatile time between the Japanese protectorate and annexation of Korea. In this discourse, Christian morality is championed as a superior modernizing force over the Japanese modernization, because Japan is a ‘heathen’ country and is shown to be essential for civilizing an emerging, but still backward, Korea.

Hyaeweol Choi. “An American Concubine in Old Korea: Missionary Discourse on Gender, Race and Modernity.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 25, no. 3 (2004): 134–61.

In this article, Choi argues that American woman missionary Ellasue Wagner considers Christian morality and ethics to be more important in determining “superiority” or “modernity” than race. Through an analysis of a missionary fiction written by an American woman missionary, in this article, Hyaeweol Choi challenges the idea of “superior in race, inferior in gender” that is often applied to women missionaries. According to Choi’s analysis, the novel criticizes the white race and instead privileges Christian piety over race.

Reflections on Peer Reviewing;

I felt that I learned a lot from peer reviewing, especially in the nuances of doing a historiography, as well as, opening my eyes to intriguing new ideas and being brave with putting them down on a piece of paper. I also discovered, or better word would be, confirmed how difficult it is to critique another person’s work. Critiquing, even in a constructive capacity is difficult for me, but something I really want to improve on and something I feel is necessary to improve on.


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Writing and Thesis Proposals

So, what did I learn about my project through the process of writing the proposal draft?

First I learned that my vague ideas and rambling thoughts must be turned into concrete words, written on concrete paper (digital and wood fibered). The loosely connected neural pathways and over-arching concepts that henceforth had lived happily in the womb of my mind must find a new, much more risky life on paper for others to see and critique. Turning those ideas into words proved on some levels to be easy and on others to be difficult. How do you explain ideas that are actually very new to you in ways that make sense for much more experienced readers to read? You write. You do it because you are supposed to. And, you hope, that you don’t writing something embarrassing.

Second I learned, or rather confirmed, that I needed more in my historiography and probably need to expand the writing on some entries already in this section. This will come with time and I am looking forward to comments back from those scary, but oh so helpful, more experienced others. (Oh, sorry for the ‘othering’.)

Third I found that in actually writing down those thoughts running around in my brain, I found a more, seemingly solid, foundation for my project. I have a road map. It may change, but, by golly, I have one.

As for changes?

For me, I want add to my historiography, beyond that, I’m not sure. I look forward to comments.

And, I must say, the little neural pathways continue to dash around inside of my head…and some may find their way out.




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More Reading

Thomson, James, Peter W. Stanley, and John Curtis Perry. Sentimental Imperialists – The American Experience in East Asia. 1st edition. New York: Harper & Row, 1981.

Sentimental Imperialists take an intense look at the multicultural complexity between America and East Asia. In analyzing these complexities, authors Thomson Stanley and Curtis argue that the vast cultural differences between East Asia and America and American ignorance of that cultural difference have been detrimental in America’s dealing with East Asian countries. The authors trace America’s dealings in East Asia over the past two hundred years coming to the conclusion that American’s imperialistic dealings in East Asia were often driven by an “almost obsessive sentiment about their present condition and future potential” leading to sentimental imperialists.[1]

Habermas, Jürgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society. MIT Press, 1991.

In The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society, Jurgen Habermas explores important theoretical ideas about space and the use of space. Most important for my research is Habermas’s ideas of the use of private space in the home for pubic purposes. According to Habermas, “the line between private and public sphere extend(s) right through the home. The privatized individuals step() out of the intimacy of their living rooms into the public sphere of the salon…”[2] Public discussion and dissemination of personal ideas of reason takes place in the private spaces of homes.


[1] James Thomson, Peter W. Stanley, and John Curtis Perry, Sentimental Imperialists – The American Experience in East Asia, 1st edition (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), 311.

[2] Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society (MIT Press, 1991), 45.



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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.


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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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