Women Struggling For a New Life

The Role of Religion in the Cultural Passage From Korea to America

By Ai Ra Kim

Subjects: Cultural Studies
Paperback : 9780791427385, 233 pages, January 1996
Hardcover : 9780791427378, 233 pages, January 1996

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Table of contents


1. Introduction

2. Women of Yesterday: Women of the Yi Dynasty

The Social Principle
Public Life and Work
Ideal Women
New Women
Theory of Adjustment
Immigration to America: Emergence of New Women
Americanization of New Women
The Early Immigrant Church and Women's Advancement
Korean Nationalism of the Early Immigrant Women
Women's Roles and Status in Family and Economic Arena

3. Women of Today (1945-Present): Immigrant Ilse Women in the United States

Women in Modern Education and Religion
Women's Destiny: Marriage
Hidden Priestesses
Immigration and Ilse Women's New Experiences in the United States
Women Students: Women Liberals
The Emergence of Professional andSemi-Professional Women: Adventurous Challengers
The Reappearance of Korean "Warrior Women" in the American Context
Women and the Korean Immigrant Church in the United States
The Significance of the Church
The Status of Women in the Immigrant Church
The Role of Women in the Immigrant Church

4. The Religious Factor in the Lives of Korean Ilse Immigrant Women in America

Christianity in Women's Daily Life
The Operative View of God:Sexist-Anthropomorphism
Jesus, the Selfless Savior, as Women's Role Model
Women in Marriage and Family
Male Preference in Families
Women's Role and Status in the Family Structure
Self-Denial and Self-Assertion
New Self-Cultivation
Other-Worldliness and This-Worldliness
Ilse Women in Transition

5. The Dynamics of Ilse Christian Women's Adaptation to Society

Women and Education
Old Wisdom and New Knowledge
Appendix Self
Women and Work
Second-Class Persons

6. Conclusion

Appendix 1. Sample Questionnaire
Appendix 2. Primary Sources: Information on the Interviewees



Kim explores the religious impact, particularly that of the Korean Methodist Church, on the lives of Korean immigrant ilse (first generation) in the United States. To most of these women, America is new soil, and they need to adjust to a different cultural and social environment. Consequently, they may be confused and frustrated. As a community center, the Korean church plays a significant role in their lives. Kim examines the church, to determine if it is helpful or detrimental to these women as they adjust to their lives in the United States.

Although the history of Korean immigrants in the United States is almost 100 years old, resources about Korean immigrants, particularly women, are scarce. These women have long been invisible and unheard in American society as well as in the Korean community and church. Their experiences as minority women and their painful struggle for survival in patriarchal Korean churches reflect not only the plight of women but also genuine human struggle.

Ai Ra Kim immigrated to the U. S. from Korea in 1962. She is pastor of Flanders United Methodist Church in New Jersey, former president of the United Methodist Asian American Clergywomen's Association, and adjunct professor at New York Theological Seminary.


"What I like about this book is that it takes history seriously and makes an argument for how the socialization/enculturation of Korean women is influenced by the period of the Yi Dynasty. Kim weaves theory and empirical data together in a way that I found quite helpful. Moreover, she deals with class issues that are often overlooked in works such as these. The book is so well organized that I could hardly put it down once I started to read. Her conclusions include a feminist critique and an evaluation of the pathology that ilse women carry as a result of both the history of the Yi Dynasty and the present-day Korean immigrant church in America. This critique is especially valuable because an indigenous sociologist is making it. "—Linda E. Thomas, Iliff School of Theology