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.”
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. 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.” People are the makers. People build the bridges. 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.” Subrhamanyam questions the idea that cultures are largely impermeable spheres that are “inaccessible to those who look in from the outside.”
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.’ (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.
 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.
 John Berthrong and Evelyn Berthrong, Confucianism: A Short Introduction (Oneworld Publications, 2014).
 Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Courtly Encounters: Translating Courtliness and Violence in Early Modern Eurasia (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2012), 212.
 Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Interview by Carol Nappi, “Interview with Sanjay Subrahmanyam,” accessed December 3, 2014, http://newbooksinhistory.com/2012/12/05/sanjay-subrahmanyam-courtly-encounters-translating-courtliness-and-violence-in-early-modern-eurasia-harvard-university-press-2012/.
 Subrahmanyam, Interview by Carol Nappi, “Sanjay Subrahmanyam Interview.”
 Subrahmanyam, Courtly Encounters, 155.
 Gaston Bachelard and John R. Stilgoe, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas, Reprint edition (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), xxxv and 111.