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.




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7 Responses to X Y and Z…Coming into an End

  1. KJ

    Faith, it seems to me that your X doesn’t fit with your Y and Z! Instead of American missionaries, it sounds as though you want to know about the Korean women and how they responded, reacted to the missionaries and their message? This post, as well as the notes you made about the secondary sources all seem to point in that direction — that you might be wanting to explore reception rather than delivery of the message. And I wonder if that wouldn’t help you solve the problem of “what do I have to say about missionary women that others haven’t said already?”

  2. faithskiles

    What another pair of eyes will see! I never would have noticed the discrepancy. I am already thinking………

  3. Claire

    Hi Faith,

    I agree with Dr. Jones that you might want to look at the reception of missionary activity among Korean women instead of the messages delivered by the missionaries. To me, this is more interesting (and less Eurocentric!).

    Also, I was struck by this paragraph:
    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.

    Are you sure that Christianity helped set a foundation for liberal democracy in Korea? It would make sense, since these were American missionaries, that the missionaries had something to do with it, but this brings to mind the exportation of American culture and cultural imperialism. Christianity is definitely a part of that, but I’m not sure it’s the whole picture. Also, Christian views on women haven’t exactly always been liberal, either, so I’m not sure if this is a Christianity vs. Confucianism thing. Is it maybe more just the fact that women were doing this type of work?

    Anyway, you are coming up with some great ideas and I look forward to seeing what develops!


  4. Kate Good

    To be honest, I don’t have terribly much to add to your work because 1) I know nothing about the subject 🙂 and 2) I’m seemingly in the same boat as I form my questions, having a difficult time getting X, Y, and Z to line up just right. BUT, I think this is really promising once you figure out the right X (I agree with Dr. Jones & Claire on that one) and your progress is really evident. Nice start!

  5. Carmen Bolt


    Just by reading your X, Y, and Z sentence, I can tell that there are any number of questions you can ask for your project. I also had difficulty aligning my thoughts into a coherent, three-part sentence, and therefore, when looking at yours, I am not sure I can add much insight. However, I wonder that if switching your focus to the reception of activity rather than the delivery will complicate your research process? Will you still have access to the material you need?

    Or, perhaps, maybe all aspects of your sentence AND the recommendations to shift your focus could be included in your project. I am not sure what is manageable, but is it possible that you “X” could be the reception of activity, but your overall project still reveal provoking conclusions about the methods used by American women missionaries?

    While I know very little about your specific topic, I feel very confident that you might spin your question or focus in a way that it assesses both methods of missionaries and reception, all while making a really convincing case about their relationship.

  6. KJ

    I like Carmen’s suggestion, focusing on the missionaries but reading their words against the grain to glean some understanding of reception. Your understanding of Korean culture should help you put their word in context, see what they are seeing but through Korean eyes. looking at the missionary work as a relationship seems like it might be a path toward significance.

  7. faithskiles

    I like that suggestion as well. I am also talking with Dr. Schneider so hopefully by next week I will have a more coherent XYZ…

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