During the late 1800s, a number of American women left their homes in the United States, some within a month of marriage, and travelled thousands of miles, almost halfway around the globe, 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”. So after their arrival, how did these American women missionaries, steeped in western ideals, create connections with Korean women who were highly influenced by very different and often conflicting Confucian ideals?
I contend that the American women built cultural bridges in purposeful actions of commensurability as well as non-purposeful, as far as evangelism is concerned, spatial decisions. I argue that American women 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 ague that their decision, not based on overtly using the home for ministry, 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. The ideas of Sanjay Subrhamanyam on commensurability and non-commensurability as well as Georg Simmel’s ideas on ‘the stranger’ are helpful to show that this is indeed true. Also underlying this argument is ways in which I state women see their home, Korean and American. In looking at these ideas, theories on space by Gaston Bachelard are helpful.
Many scholars of missionary work write about the work in education and medicine of missionary women and may see this work as “going down the same road.” This work, however, will focus intently as the first interactions between Korean women 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 Korea and dissertations written in Korean and English about Christian Korean women.
Dr. Jones, is this way too long now?????