American missionary women in the Tokyo-Yokohama area, such as Kate Youngman, Maria True, and Dr. Adaline D. H. Kelsey, were willing to assist Toyojyu Sasaki and her fellow Tokyo WCTU members promote reform for women's causes. However, in contrast to Sasaki, they were reluctant to break the American as well as Japanese convention that women did not speak in public. For example, the following letter, written by the influential missionary Dr. James Curtis Hepburn, reveals the circumstance under which Maria True worked at the time. A missionary doctor, Hepburn had managed a dispensary in Yokohama introducing Western medicine to Japan and providing medical aid to local residents. However, distressed by Japan's decision to adopt the medical system from Germany, Hepburn shifted his focus to building a mission college and seminary for Japanese men. While he recognized Maria True's abilities, he could not accept that her work was more successful than men's work. For Hepburn, True's school, "with the active mind of Mrs. True at its head, gives us men more trouble than all the other female schools put together." Toiling to meet the increasing demands of Japanese women for education under the male-dominant Presbyterian foreign missionary enterprise, True did not have much choice but to accept the limits set by male anxiety and frustration until she left the mission in August 1892 to work independently supported by American women philanthropists.
Yokohama April 2, 1880
Dear Dr. Gillespie
Perhaps my writing to you as an individual member of the mission on mission matters may seem to be somewhat irregular, specifically as we have a Secretary who is supposed to be the mouthpiece of the mission and to communicate the mind of the mission to the Board at home, yet I cannot refrain just now from expressing somewhat of my views on some features of our work in this country. I know you would like us missionaries to be open and aboveboard as regards every branch of our work, and even if we do differ in opinion you would like to know wherein we differ, and the reasons for it, as you can thereby form a better judgment yourself and come to more correct conclusions. I am now an old man, and perhaps retain too many old fashioned notions, in other words too conservative, and do not keep up with the times, and the wonderful changes in all kinds of Christian work. One kind of work especially, which I regarded at first with a good deal of doubt and mistrust, and have not yet been entirely reconciled to, is women's work in Foreign Missions. I was
[p. 2]indeed at first doubtful about it, and regarded it as an innovation, and a serious departure from the good old paths But I see women are coming to the front in almost every department of work, and are gradually breaking the bonds in which they have been held, asserting their rights and capacity for most kinds of educational and Christian work. I have come to the conclusion that this movement, which is a peculiar features of the present age must be of God, and not of man or of the Evil one, though we will know his subtlety and that he can come as an angel of light, and by his devices, working on human passions and infirmaties [sic] can not only debase the holy magic of God in man, but transform the Church of Christ into "the Mother of Abominations."
But I trust it is of God, and rejoice in the good that woman's work is accomplishing both at home and abroad. One thing I especially rejoice in is that womanly instincts cannot resist the offers of marriage, and that so many of the ladies that come out as foreign missionaries become good wives and mothers, and thus accomplish a better work than they could otherwise do. But to come to the particular object I have in mind in writing this letter, viz. to the subject of your last letter, the Bancho female school.
[p. 3]Our Secretary, Dr. Imbrie, will no doubt by this mail inform you of the result of a mission meeting called especially to consider this matter, and how to reply to your Letter. That school, with the active mind of Mrs. True at its head, gives us men more trouble than all the other female schools put together. You will see that Bancho now asks for more money than they did, thinking to purchase a lot nearly adjoining their present school. They now wish to sell all their present property and purchase a lot about one acre in size & put up more commodious buildings on it. Their present lots contain about 3/4 an acre. If they could sell them at the price which they will have to pay for the new lot which is doubtful they would bring about $11,000 for the buildings on them. I doubt whether they could get over $1000, say 12,000 in all. The new lot will cost at least $13,000, and the necessary buildings 8 or 10 thousand dollars more. Thus the extra expense would be about $10,000 in round numbers.
The lot now asked for is a beautiful lot most advantageously situated, about 200 yards distant from the present location of Bancho. It is indeed altogether a desirable location on every account.
It will bring their schools all into one enclosure--schools which are now separated by intervening ground belonging to others. The neighborhood is very good. Their surroundings, of the best. They could increase the
[p. 4]number of pupils to 300, as they now desire.
No doubt if the Board has funds which it could spare, it would be usefully spent. It was with this promise the resolution was passed--Rather reluctantly passed by some of us men, perhaps the majority. The Bancho school is certainly doing very good work, every one will admit, and it will be well to give them all they want if you had plenty of money and other work equally or perhaps even more important was not hampered thereby.
It is my opinion, that the ladies ought to be satisfied with their present arrangements, and limit the number of pupils and boarders to their ability to accommodate them comfortably, and power to teach. The female schools are all too much crowded. It is no doubt hard to turn off those asking admission but they should set a limit, for neither the funds of the Board nor the number of teachers would be adequate to supply the present demand. Besides it is a serious question how far female education comes within the scope of the Board of Foreign Missions, especially in this county where the government is doing so much in this direction. Indeed, I hold, that but for the one item of Christian or bible instruction, missionary schools, either male or female, would not be needed in this country, where both public and private schools are quite as common as they are in the
[p. 5]United States. Let the female schools as now established suffice, let them limit the number of pupils, let them be well provided with teachers and all necessary equipments and there rest. This government will some day, ere long, see the need of the Christian religion, and will encourage it in every way. If women will come to heathen lands, there is plenty for them to do, a glorious work not in schools only, but after they have acquired the language in going from house to house in reading and explaining the Scriptures, telling the story of the Cross, teaching the ignorant, comforting the sorrowful and leading the old and young to Jesus; besides giving money with useful suggestions in household and domestic economy, sanitary arrangements etc etc etc. And in these respects Miss Youngman's ideas are excellent. Women can go where men cannot, and they are always welcomed.
The Mission College and Seminary ought to be well supported and established, as it is the only mode of supplying preachers of the Gospel. We ought to have at least $50,000 more in order to put these schools on a good foundation. This is much more important for this country at the present time than spending money for female education.
As for training nurses for the sick, I cannot see how it can be included in the work of the Board of For. Missions especially when [illegible].
[p. 6]This matter of "Trained Nurses" is the outcome of a high grade of civilization, to which it is well adapted. The Japanese grade of civilization is by no means adapted to it. What they want is a radical change and improvement in the construction of their houses, in their customs--modes of sitting, eating, sleeping, in dress, and sanitary arrangements [illegible]. The instructions of an educated Physician is all they can endure at present; trained nurses are adapted to their condition about as a dress coat of broadcloth would be on the back of a beggar.
I may say also I am opposed to enlarging the school accommodations in Yokohama on the present lot for Miss Alexander's day school, although $600 to this purpose was entered in the Estimates for 1888-89. She also should limit the number of her scholars. Women do not seem to know how hard it is to raise money at home.
I might touch on many other things, but this will suffice for this time. You have Mr. Knox with you now. I am much mistaken, if he will not concur in all I have said.
I am, very respectfully yours,
J. C. Hepburn