Building Cultural Bridges: American Women Missionaries in Korea 1885-1910

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Virginia Tech


In this thesis, I explore the role of American women missionaries to Korea and how they built cultural bridges that Korean women crossed to become Christian converts. American women missionaries opened their homes to and deliberately sought out relationships with Korean women, relationships centered on evangelism, a common search for Korean language literacy, a shared identity as women and on something missionary women termed a "friendship." These actions by the American women missionaries created opportunities -- bridges -- for Korean women to step into Christianity along a uniquely female path. The bridges I discuss are the intentional actions by women missionaries to make connections with Korean women, the creation of spaces within American homes that met Confucian expectations for women and the production of a "middle ground," a conceptual space of (mis)understanding and new understandings that facilitated cross-cultural interaction. These bridges helped a significant number of Korean women to convert to Christianity and also shed light on the development of a syncretic Korean Christianity.



Missionaries, Korea, Women, Cross-Cultural, 1890s