Attempting Great Things for God: Southern White, Chinese, and Korean Women in the MECS Missionary Enterprise (1878-1925) Open Access

Kim, Gabriele (Spring 2023)

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In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Southern Methodist elite and middle-class white women went to China and Korea on foreign missions. Using a transpacific framework, this study tracks the motivations of missionaries who according to their Premillennialist and social gospel theology felt obliged to help the “heathen” both domestically and abroad. Not only were they interested in saving souls because they were convinced that Christ would not return until all the nations heard the gospel, but they also sought to assist people in this life by meeting various social “needs.” They did this with Ji Yung, a Chinese convert, who they felt could benefit from teaching her their Victorian ideals of mothering through Christian education. In addition, Melissa Kim is a central figure in the study who traveled from Korea to China and then to America to receive a formal education so that she could become an educator for other Korean women. By expanding upon existing literature on the missionary enterprise which has primarily discussed the perspectives of the white Southern elite Methodist missionaries, I hope that incorporating the narratives of native converts into this transpacific history can lead to a more holistic understanding of these missional encounters.  

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1: At Home– “Woman’s Work for Women” 7

I. Introduction 7

II. Why Missions? The Increased Social Participation of Women 8

Social Evangelistic Work 12

III. Educational Pioneers 13

IV. Scarritt Bible and Training School 16

V. Conclusion 21

Chapter 2: Making Mothers– Southern MECS Missionary Women in China 23

I. Introduction 23

II. Reforming China 25

Educating China 27

Anti-Footbinding Work 30

III. From Education to Marriage: the Making of Domestic Christian Ladies 33

Ji Yung, “A Beautiful Gem” 35

IV. Conclusion 40

Chapter 3: New Religion, New Woman– Christianity in the Life of a Korean Convert, Melissa Kim 43

I. Introduction 43

II. Missionary Work in Korea 44

III.  Reception of Christianity: A New Korean Woman 48

Following the Dream: Kim’s Educational Journey 51

IV. Making a Distinct Korean Protestant Christian Woman through Education 55

V. Conclusion 57

Conclusion 60

Bibliography 65

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