Ms. B.F. Starkey, blue-eyed American missionary featured in 1938 Keijo Nippo as a pro-Imperial model foreigner inspired by Japanese-Korean Unification policy to join the Patriotic Women’s Association in Seoul

This 1938 article is a historical account in a colonial propaganda newspaper about Ms. B.F. Starkey, an American missionary in Korea during the Japanese colonial period who devoted decades of her life in Imperial Japan in various charitable activities.

Her decision to cooperate with the colonial regime starkly contrasts with fellow American missionary George McCune‘s decision in 1935 to refuse to perform State Shinto worship rituals, for which he was forced by the colonial authorities to leave Korea. The fact that Ms. Starkey was able to continue to operate in Korea in 1938 probably means that she decided to go along with performing the State Shinto rituals, including the mandatory 7 am Kyujo Yohai prayers, even though it was against her Christian beliefs. In any case, she probably would not have been able to stay in Korea past 1942, when Americans who still remained in Imperial Japan were detained and deported.

This is the second Keijo Nippo newspaper article that I found featuring a blue-eyed woman. The other one featured a blue-eyed Russian Tatar woman, Shamseinoor Berikova, who was a member of the National Women’s Defense Association (NWDA), which was similar but distinct from the Patriotic Women’s Association (PWA) to which Ms. Starkey belonged. Historically, the elite wealthy and powerful women tended to join the PWA, while the NWDA had a much closer connection with the Imperial Japanese military and had a broader membership. The two organizations subsequently merged in 1942.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) July 2, 1938

A blue-eyed woman with a Patriotic Women’s Association Sash

Courageous words of Ms. Starkey: “I also want to help out Japan on the home front!”

Moved by the spirited march of Koreans working for the war effort under the policy of Japanese-Korean Unification, a blue-eyed foreign woman was inspired and said, ‘Please let me join in these duties on the home front.’ Recently, she applied to join the Patriotic Women’s Association at its third branch in Takezoe-chō (present-day Chungjeong-no), Seoul, delighting the leaders and members of the group who received her unusual membership application for the first time. The heroine of this story, Ms. B.F. Starkey, an American residing at 3-30 Takezoe-chō, Seoul, has now proudly become a member of the Patriotic Women’s Association. At 56 years old, she joins Japanese and Korean members in comforting families of conscripts, collecting national defense funds, and impressing the community with her passionate efforts, dressed in the Association’s uniform of a white apron and a purple sash.

Twenty-eight years ago, in 1910, Ms. Starkey landed in Nagasaki as a Methodist missionary in Japan, the land of poetry. Immediately struck by Japan’s picturesque landscapes and warm people, she decided to dedicate her life to this country. Ever since then, for twenty-eight years, she has continued to live in this land, true to her initial resolve, dedicating her life to missionary work and cultural pursuits out of her love for Japan. She has nurtured young men and women who gathered around her, drawn to her pure character, as if they were her own children. She has earnestly lead English language clubs and student Bible classes every evening at her home without pay, and opened her garden as a playground for local children to give some relief to their families.

Dedicated to cultural advancement and community service, she also runs a female-only ‘private convent,’ Shion Dormitory, in the second floor of her house. With open arms, she welcomes young unmarried women who left their families as well as young girls in need of guidance who approach her for answers and salvation, continuing to selflessly devote herself in helping them awaken from misguided dreams through a pure lifestyle at the dormitory. Currently, 13 girls enjoy a pleasant life there, and she has already sent many well-cultured women into society as respectable wives.

Ms. Starkey’s high regard as a saintly figure and her membership in the Patriotic Women’s Association have sparked usual delight among foreigners living in Seoul, and that is expected to inspire a surge of membership among pro-Japanese foreigners. When visited at her home, she humbly commented, ‘I am only doing what is natural,’ and made only brief remarks without continuing further. [The photo is of blue-eyed Ms. Starkey]


京城日報 1938年7月2日