Intellectual Diaspora, Nation, and Gender: Korean Women Students in the United States before 1945

Haeseong Park, Purdue University


My dissertation examines Korean women who came to the United States for higher education before Korean independence in 1945. These Korean women became an important and influential minority in the construction of the Korean nation, the overseas independence movement, and the Korean diasporic community. In Korean historiography, which has tends to dichotomize Koreans who lived during the Japanese colonial period into patriotic nationalists and pro-Japanese collaborators, voices representing other positions have been largely silenced, including those of Korean women students in the United States. There are few previous studies on this subject. Most of the research focuses on a handful of famous figures who were independence activists or who entered the cabinet of the Republic of Korea after independence. These character-driven studies confirm established scholarship and fail to understand who these women really were and what true contributions they made. This project explores what roles the existence of these women students and their American education played in connection between Korea and Korean communities in the United States, and between Korea and the United States. Although the number of Korean female students in the United States was small, analysis of their experiences has the potential to decenter the conventional meta-narratives about colonial Korea, colonialism, and nationalism, which tend to simplify religious influence, neglect class difference, dissolve gender difference, and overgeneralize the victimization of Koreans. This project is an original attempt to reconstruct the life of a forgotten yet important minority in order to better understand the history of Korean women in a modernity context, both nationally and transnationally.




Hastings, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Womens studies|History

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