Monthly Archives: February 2015

Focus Statement, Take Two, and Boy is it Longer…

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?????


Filed under Uncategorized

So, What is the “No Pou In”?

For my primary source presentation, I chose a paragraph from an article written by Mary Scranton, an early missionary to Korea, published in a magazine entitled “The Korean Repository”. She writes the piece in 1896 and in it she describes some of her experiences in the first ten years on the mission field.

I chose this paragraph because it is a first-hand account from one of the earliest and most dedicated women missionaries to Korea. She arrived in Korea at the age of 52 and died there at the age of 76. I also chose this paragraph because it speaks to more than one methodology I desire to employ in my paper. It speaks to the spatial aspect of the missionary home, as well as cultural bridges the American women faced when starting work in Korea.

There are also interesting bits of information that can be gleaned from Mrs. Scranton’s quick departure into Romanized Korean in the paragraph when she refers to herself as the “No Pou In” (in Korean, 노부인). In this departure we can learn about the way in which Korean women viewed Mrs. Scranton and how Mrs. Scranton viewed herself.


Filed under Uncategorized

Secondary Sources


This week I needed to return two books with short loan times to ILLiad. So, I chose to read them.

Hardin, Joyce. Sojourners: Women with a Mission. Korean Consolidated Corp, 1973.

Ms. Hardin, a former missionary to Korea, wrote this book as a “help” for other missionary women headed to the mission field. For my purposes, she outlines the experiences, feelings, emotions, many people have when starting a mission in a foreign country. She also speaks pointedly to cultural difference between Koreans and Americans.

Lee, Kyung-Lim Shin. Pear Blossoms Blooming: The History of American Women Missionaries at Ewha Womans University. First Prinitng edition. Ewha Womans University Press, 1989.

This is a history of Ewha University in Korea. The school was started by female missionary Mary Scranton when she was 52 years old. It pulls heavily from primary sources I’ve already read.

I also read a dissertation this week.

Park, Bokyoung. The Contribution of Korean Christian Women to the Church and Its Mission: Implications for an Evangelical Missiology. Pasadena, Calif: Fuller Theological Seminary, 1999.

This dissertation illuminated Confucian expectations for women coming into the turn of the twentieth century and at the time of the turn. Included were some interesting fiction pieces about the life of Korean women describing their Han or suffering as well as explanations for ideas such as samjongjido or the three masters of women and namjon yobi or translated means “men should be respected, women should be denigrated.” The bibliography is a wonderful source for secondary works in Korean on Korean women’s work at the turn of the twentieth century as Bible women.

One last note to Dr. Jones. – I will definitely work on the section of the bibliography you suggested.



Filed under Uncategorized

The Role of Women in South Korea

The role of women in South Korea still remains the subject of academic papers, blogs and news articles.[1] Although women certainly have more opportunities than they did a hundred years ago, some believe Confucian ideals for women continue to shape South Korean women’s lives.

For example, I have to some extent experienced this gender divide. While I was in South Korea, I stayed with a very strong Korean woman who heads a Christian organization in Gwang-Ju. For the majority of my visit, we remained in the company of other women. During this time she was strong, decisive and capable. However, at the end of the stay, we had an appointment in Seoul with the South Korean Defense Minister. Men in the organization decided we needed to be escorted for this visit. While around these men, my friend’s behavior changed dramatically. She did not make decisions and followed the suggestions the male members of our party made. As I seemed puzzled by this change in behavior, she actually explained to me in English, which they could not understand, that she had to do what they said. I couldn’t help but think of the irony of the situation when the men in our party were not admitted into the building where the Defense Minister was holding meetings – only my friend and I went in to talk with Kim Kwan-Jin.

Another example – Korean women experience a very specific Confucian ideal in something they call “시 월드” (interestingly enough pronounced “she world”). 시, Romanized “si”, actually is a prefex meaning “groom’s side of the family”, so for Korean women “si world” is the world of their in-laws. In following Confucian ideals from years ago in which Korean women left their natal home to serve their in-laws, Korean wives who visit their in-laws today are expected to do all the cooking and cleaning during their visit. These expectations extend also to their brothers and sisters-in-law. My Korean friend talks about “si world” to me and we marvel at our cultural differences.

These experiences helped lead me to and helped shape my research question. Cultural divides still exist. I have to cross that cultural divide every time I interact with my friend who still lives in Korea and my friend who recently moved here from Korea. These modern day encounters actually led me to think about Subrahmanyam’s ideas of commensurability. My Blacksburg Korean friend and I often work at bridging that cultural divide. It often brings up misunderstandings and confusion, but those often lead to better understandings of each other in the end – because we are open to making it work. We are not dogmatic about our own cultural ideas but freely share in the other’s. I learn to play the traditional Korean chuseok game (Chuseok is kind of like our Thanksgiving) and they eat chili and cornbread on cold wintry nights. She listens and helps me with my very rough Korean and I help her with her pretty good English. I don’t always understand her and she doesn’t always understand me, but that’s okay.

Debate in South Korea over the role of women continues. South Korean women more and more are taking steps to move out of Confucian ideals. One of those moves, interestingly enough, is that more and more women chose to not marry… They are highly educated, devoted to their jobs and want no part of “Si World.”


[1] Wachira Kigotho, “Women Enrol in Science but Not STEM,” University World News, February 21, 2015, 00355 edition; “Korean Women Need to Stand as One for Social Change,” accessed February 21, 2015,; Sirin Sung, “Women Reconciling Paid and Unpaid Work in a Confucian Welfare State: The Case of South Korea,” Social Policy & Administration 37, no. 4 (August 1, 2003): 342–60, doi:10.1111/1467-9515.00344.


Filed under Uncategorized

First Attempt at a Focus Statement

Here is my first attempt at a focus statement.

I desire to study how American women missionaries, steeped in western ideals, created connections with Korean women, who were highly influenced by Confucian ideals. I will also examine if these connections contributed to the rise of Christianity in Korea. In this project, I will use American missionary records, journals from the time period published in America and Korea and dissertations written in English and Korean about Korean women. I will also employ theoretical ideas on space from Gaston Bachelard, to explore the role of the missionary home and  ideas on commensurability from Sanjay Subrahmanyam and ideas of the ‘stranger’ from Georg Simmel to illuminate cross-cultural facilitation.


Filed under Uncategorized

Another X,Y,Z Attempt and Updates

X, Y, Z.

This week I talked with Dr. Schneider and Dr. Mollin and have a new attempt at an xyz statement. It centers around the question: How did American women missionaries make connections with Korean women when there was such a cultural divide?

I am interested in researching American women missionaries in Korea.

I am interested in this topic because American women brought American ideals and ideas about domesticity, education, family-life, health, even cooking, that were very different from Korean ideas on the same subjects. Nevertheless, they were successful in bridging that cultural divide as evidenced by the large number of Korean women converts.

I believe this is important because it has ramifications for the conversation on the rise of Christianity in Korea, which at this point does not include theories about the impact of women.

As for other updates: I found a plethora of primary sources, actually online which I will be combing through to see if they will be of any use. I also have rolls of microfilm from the Northern presbyterian mission which includes reports, publications and correspondence from 1906 to the 1950s. I found some wonderful finding aids for material pre1906 which I will have to go to Philadelphia to see. There is also an archive in Montreat North Carolina for the Southern Presbyterian church. They do not have any finding aids online; however, I emailed them and they are going to send me finding aids for Korean missionaries within the next two weeks. Since I am interested mostly in years pre 1906 I will need to plan a trip to Philadelphia, as well as Montreat. My mother went to high school at Montreat so it will be a nice visit for her to go along with me.


Filed under Uncategorized

One is Not Enough….


Besides Awakening the Hermit Kingdom: Pioneer American Women Missionaries in Korea I read two articles relevant to my topic. Both were very helpful, but the second was very insightful in terms of the significance of the work of women missionaries in Korea.

WOODBERRY, ROBERT D. “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy.” The American Political Science Review 106, no. 2 (May 2012): 244–74. doi:

This article is only somewhat helpful in that its approach is looking at the history of the Korean church in search of present missiological ideas. It give an overview of the history of the rise of Christianity in Korea as a backdrop for its ideas. Ideas of interest include:


  1. Before the arrival of missionaries in Korea, there were native Korean Christians who were converted through New Testaments available in Manchuria and translated by John Ross and his team of Korean merchant-translators. The first portions were printed in 1882 and the entire New Testament was available in 1887. Citable note: (Park, 2012) Earliest Korean Conversions
  2. Article gives an overview of the Nevius sysem and the early missionaries decision to follow it. The Nevius system, devised by missionary John Nevius and disseminated to American missionaries in Korea in an 1890 visit stressed the importance of native leadership in churches and that native churches should be self-supporting. Author believes this helped the spread of Christianity by spurring the Korean church to be self-supporting. Citable note: (Park, 2012) Author believes Nevius System helped the spread of Christianity in Korea
  3. Author also believes that Korea was more open to American missionaries because instead of fostering “anti-western” sentiments, Koreans, in light of the Japanese colonization were “anti-Japanese.” So early church growth became intertwined with Korean nationalism. Citable note: (Park, 2012) Author believes Koreans were “anti-Japanese” instead of “anti-western”
  4. Author believes that Korea was the most Confucian society in all of East Asia, an idea expressed by many authors. (Park, 2012) Korea most Confucian society in East Asia
  5. Author believes that some Confucian ideals, such as the importance of education and filial piety are complementary to Christianity but acknowledges strict hierarchies are not. The author also purports that ideas in Shamanism also are complementary to Christianity. (Park, 2012) Ideas in Confucianism and Shamanism complement Christianity
  6. Author also believes that the role of Protestant missionaries was important in elevating the status of women in Korea because they were the first to introduce education for women and thus paved the way for equal rights with men. Citable Note: (Park, 2012) Protestant missionaries important in elevating the status of women in Korea.


The second article was very enlightening in thinking about the significance of the work of Protestant women missionaries in Korea.

Woodberry, Robert D. “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy.” The American Political Science Review 106, no. 2 (May 2012): 244–74. doi:

Ideas of Interest include:

  1. Theories of democracy usually ignore or minimize the role of culture and religion and rather emphasize material interests of different social classes – secular rationality, economic development, urbanization, industrialization and the expansion of the state.(Woodberry, 2012) Theories of democracy ignore religion.
  2. The author argues that Western modernity is profoundly shaped by religions factors and “although many aspects of this ‘modernity’ have been replicated in countries around the world, religion shaped what spread, where it spread, how it spread, and how it adapted to new contexts.” (244) (Woodberry, 2012) Religion played a major role in shaping Western modernity and its spread to countries around the world.
  3. The author argues that conversionary Protestants were a “crucial catalyst” in spreading religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, most colonial reforms and codification of legal protections for nonwhites at the turn of the twentieth century in countries around the world. The above innovations helped produce cultural conditions in countries that later would support the development of stable liberal democracies. (Woodberry, 2012) Conversionary protestants crucial catalyst in spreading cultural ideas that supported the development of stable liberal democracies.
  4. The author uses a mix of historical analysis and statistical analysis in the developing of his argument. (Woodberry, 2012) Historical and statistical analysis supports Woodberry’s argument.
  5. As CP’s, conversionary Protestants spread their faith, they became catalysts for mass education, mass printing and proponents of a civil society. Desires for everyone to be able to read the Bible in their own language produced a desire for mass education and printing. These actions hampered the elite from monopolizing these resources and facilitated a resource transfer to non-elites, altering the class structure. (“To most elites, printing seemed ugly, it spread books to those “not qualified to interpret them.”” 250) Civil society ideas helped promote the development of political parties and nonviolent political movements. (Woodberry, 2012) Protestants hampered the elite from monopolizing education and printing.
  6. Protestants changed the idea about who books were for. Books were for everyone, they should be inexpensive and everyone should be able to read in their own language. Also, CP’s expected lay people to make their own religious choices. Each person had to decide to follow the faith or not. This gave rise to mass printing as evangelization tools. (Woodberry, 2012) Books and conversion decision are everyone’s right or choice. This leads to mass printing.
  7. The author uses sources, which I have, to show that these ideas pertained to Korea. (Woodberry, 2012) Woodberry ideas pertain to Korea.
  8. New organizational forms developed in America were spread by CPs. Ideas of organizational form like the temperance movement, abolition movement and other social reform movements were closely linked to missions and many scholars argue that these types of organizational civil society helps foster democracy. (Woodberry, 2012) Author argues CPS linked with organizational civil society.
  9. Statistical analysis backs up the authors claims (Woodberry, 2012) Statistical analysis backs up Woodberry’s arguments.
  10. Author does not discount post-colonial theory but looks intently at factors present in the rise of stable liberal democracy. Statistical analysis becomes very skewed when all factors of religion are taken out of the equation. “Protestant missions are strongly and robustly associated with democracy. In fact, missions seem to explain about half the variation in democracy outside Europe and survive dozens of controls and robustness checks.” (268) author does not claim that CPs are the only cause of democracy but are important and are often neglected in analysis. (Woodberry, 2012) CPs important often neglected factor in analysis of stable liberal democracies.
  11. Synoptic takeaway: “CP religious competition seems to have influenced class structure by dispersing education to women and the poor, making texts widely available, spawning civil society among non-elites, and moderating abuses of power – with demonstrable economic and political consequences.” (269) (Woodberry, 2012) CPs work with women, the poor, printing and civil organizing were important in laying a foundation for stable liberal democracies.


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Awakening Me to Research Possibilities through “Awakening the Hermit Kingdom”


Ahn, Katherine H. Lee. Awakening the Hermit Kingdom: Pioneer American Women Misionaries in Korea. 1st edition. Pasadena, Calif: William Carey Library, 2013.


Katherine Ahn’s Awakening the Hermit Kingdom: Pioneer American Women Misionaries in Korea is a comprehensive overview of American women missionary’s work in Korea between the years 1885-1907. Her methodology, as such, is just that, an overview, a comprehensive history gleaned from the archives. She uses a number of primary sources, primarily letters written by female missionaries as well as journals published by denominations at the time. She situates her story thematically and chronologically. In essence, she desires to write a history of early missionary endeavors that focuses entirely on the work done by women missionaries. It is not a particularly scholarly work, but is ‘chock-full’ of information. In her conclusion, Ahn puts forth a number of arguments as to the accomplishments, significance and successes of the women missionaries, which she believes, I think, that her work ‘shows’ although they are not explicitly argued.

Awakening the Hermit Kingdom, although a historical narrative, its audience seems geared to theological-missionary endeavors. Two reviews were from theological journals and one review was from an historical journal. All reviews remark on the work’s breadth and wide use of primary sources to weave the narrative. Michael C. Lazich of Buffalo State College, writing in the “American Historical Review” however, notes that the work lacks the rigor of academic critical analysis, something I noticed as well. Samuel Yang, in the “International bulletin of Missionary Research” is very complimentary of the book without criticism; however he does note something unique about Ahn’s work. Yang purports that Ahn insists that, more than the content of the gospel message, the way it was presented was important – that the women created a ‘space’ for communication. This is a perception that I agree with and interests me a lot. Lila Bilisky writing in the journal “Missology – An International Review” points out that Ahn never notes that the American women missionaries would have been forerunners in education and medical work in America, not to mention Korea. This is an idea that has been well documented by historians working in the field of women missionaries and was the subject of my undergraduate thesis paper over 10 years ago. Bilisky also notes that Ahn’s work is enriched by the use of articles and theses written in the Korean language. I agree with this perception, but have had a hard time getting access to them. Ahn is from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA where these theses are located. Efforts through ILLiad, as well as personal contact with a librarian at Fuller have come up empty as far as obtaining copies of these works for my research.

Three articles cited Awakening the Hermit Kingdom, according to google scholar. Two of the articles centered on Korean women. The first contains an analysis of the reasons for the success of the Korean Bible Women in their evangelistic efforts. The second article argues that Protestant Bible education for women laid the foundation for the professional education of modern Korean women. This is also an idea I am interested in exploring in terms of the significance of the work of American missionary women. Both of these articles use Ahn’s research that showed that Korean women, in overwhelming numbers, came to see what the new ‘foreign women’ looked like. Actually, this was the first time I had seen these articles so of course I went looking for them and found them actually just through a google search and then by signing into Muse journals through my affiliation with Virginia Tech. The third article that cited Awakening the Hermit Kingdom was an article on Horace Allen, a male missionary to Korea. This article just used Ahn to establish the fact that there were mission fields in other countries besides Korea at the time, a fact they could have gotten from any number of sources.

I also did a citation search following the guidelines outlined in the email from Bruce Pancek. This search, however, did not result in any citations. I have thought about reasons for the relative paucity of citations for Awakening the Hermit Kingdom especially in light of the fact that the book is going through its second release (Its first release was in 2009 and its second was in 2013) and its ready availability on the used book market. I believe it may be used as an overview of mission work in seminary classes and I believe its value is less in its argument and more in its treasure trove of endnotes and bibliographic information.

Along those lines, I too believe that I will ‘mine’ the books endnotes for information and sources; however, it also gives me an overview of the missionary work and possible entrance points for my research. I believe Ahn’s implicit ideas of ‘space’ for ministry will also become part of my analysis.

Overall, Awakening the Hermit Kingdom is a comprehensive and helpful synopsis of early work by American women missionaries in Korea and as such, is a valuable addition to my bibliography.





Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

X Y and Z…Coming into an End

I am plagued, perhaps that is too harsh a word, let’s say, engrossed, with thoughts concerning turning my topic into an answerable question and manageable project. Instead of concrete answers, more questions run through my mind. Questions like: Why do I want to research female missionaries? What is significant about their lives? What is significant about their lives that someone has not said already? How should I approach my topic? How will different methodological approaches impact my project? And would different methodological approaches change my question?

I am glad, that I do not have to come up with the answer definitively, today, right this minute, because that would be out of my ability at this point I think. I am also very glad that we are doing this exercise and talking about this process in class. I know this will ultimately help me arrive at a final question and workable thesis because arrive I must.

So for today, Sunday February 8th, I have an XYZ statement to proffer concerning my MA project.

I am interested in researching American women missionaries to Korea.

I am interested in this topic because I want to know how their work shaped Christianity in Korea as well as how their work influenced Korean women’s lives, impacted Confucian ideals for women and helped set a foundation for the later development of a liberal democracy in South Korea.

 I believe this is important, as it will illuminate the role of women in the dissemination of American ideals and influence on the world stage. Historians may need to look again at the ways in which American values, concepts and political thought developed in emerging nations at the turn of the twentieth century.

While very preliminary, my research so far has shown that American women’s decisions on methods of evangelization were very successful in reaching Korean women with the gospel. Also American women’s efforts in terms of education opened up a whole new world to Korean women who were considered inferior to men and uneducable to some. According to Katherine H. Lee Ahn in Awakening the Hermit Kingdom: Pioneer American Women Missionaries in Korea, a Korean man, when he heard the American women missionaries were teaching Korean women, commented that he expected the missionaries to soon start “schools for Korean cattle” as well. While shocking to us, very few Korean women were afforded any kind of education at the turn of the twentieth century. Today, almost 100% of girls graduate high school in South Korea. The first people to give Korean girls, no matter their social background, an education, were American female missionaries.




Filed under Uncategorized

Searching and Finding….Alot!

Is there a limit on the number of items you can request from ILLiad?

I hope not.

My list for ILLiad books is getting very long and it is all due to our assignment to explore databases for secondary source literature. I explored WorldCat, Center for Research Libraries, ABI/INFORM Global and Jstor. While I will have to explore these data bases more thoroughly and with different search terms as well as explore others, I have a good start and as much as I can handle at the moment.

As I write this, 31 reels of microfilm await me at the library loaned through the Center for Research Libraries. (Dr. Schneider helped me with this.) I have 22 books or dissertation requests lined up on ILLiad. Two are in Korean on subjects I am very interested in, but translation will be a challenge and will need to center on the most important passages for my research. I also have a number of articles downloaded from the ABI/INFORM search.

After I read our readings for this week, I found the searching to be relatively easy and as I’ve said, very fruitful. What surprised me was the number of dissertations available for loan in my area of interest. As for the way I am thinking about my project, it seems to always be in flux as thoughts, ideas from instructors and data base searches all inform my thinking.

Some of my thoughts though, are not particularly about my topic, per se…

As I sit here looking back over this post, I’m just wondering, am I about to wallow in a sea of too much “stuff” or is this just the normal panic mentioned in Kate Turabian’s book????….????

How is everyone else coming along????

A postscript: I should have read Sara’s entry before entering the world of data bases. 🙂




Filed under Uncategorized