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The Japanese and Chinese Scholarship

ishin's picture

Forewarning: this is going to be real piecemeal and not that comprehensive.  Here's also Erin's post that talks a lot about two early east Asian students on campus.

As Erin points out, surprisingly enough, there is a deep-rooted history of East Asian, more specifically, Japanese, and then a short time later, Chinese students, on campus.  To speak of the Japanese students first, in 1893, a Quaker woman named Mrs. Wistar Morris founded what was called the Japanese Scholarship program.  I found an opening speech within the special collections archives that describes a little about the beginnings of this program:
"In 1893...Mrs. Wistar Morris...was a friend and believed in foreign missions which at that time the Quakers did not.  So after speak about it in meetings for some time with not results she decided she better go herself which she did.  Her husband accompanying her."

I want to come back to that quote in a little bit after talking a little more about early beginnings and then structure of this scholarship. The first student who enrolled within this program was Michi Matsuda.  She first enrolled in two years of preperatory school and then went on to complete two years at Bryn Mawr.  From the very beginning, it seems as if there was no particular requirement and structure of the scholarship when one accepted it.  That is to say, some women came over only to complete a portion of their undergraduate degree (like Ume Tsuda) while others did.  As the years move forward, it seems that this scholarship was also granted to graduate students as well.  The scholarship committee ended in 1988, and at the moment, I have yet looked into what caused its end.

The women who have recieved this scholarship are nothing short of impressive.  When looking through the special collections archives, there are multiple speeches and records that celebrate what these women have accomplished (however, I don't have those specific accomplishments in front of me at the moment).  Beyond Ume Tsuda, many students who participated in both the Japanese and Chinese scholarship programs tend to go back to their country of origin in order to use their western educations to better serve their home countries.  (I'm going to put the following statement in bold as I see this being the my conclusion from my findings thus far:) after reading some speeches, articles from the alumnae association, and letters from recipients of these scholarships, I cannot help but question that both scholarships were in a type of altruistic western imperialism--a type of imperialism that took advantage of natural citizens to instill western thought and practices into Japanese and Chinese culture. The alumnae association articles I had read tended to first and foremost laud the accomplishments of these students in their ability to go back to their eastern roots and instill what western values they were taught in their time abroad.  These East asian women tended to find schools which followed western thought, and Ume Tsuda's school and her appreciation and priase for her western education seems to be prime example.

Within these articles, there was mention of how these students could also bring rich insight into the Bryn Mawr community, but these mentions were almost afterthoughts to the prime point being that these East Asian women are being given western educations in order to better their underdeveloped "oriental" countries.  I need to do more digging, but at the moment, I cannot help but wonder how valid my altruistic imperialism statement is.  If this is the case, then I want to also say that the Japanese and Chinese scholarships have had a long-acting impact on the mentality and mission of the school today.  That is to say, Bryn Mawr's mission to bring internatonal students and people of culture to this school so that they can go out and live a life of public service can be translated to "bring them to Bryn Mawr, show them how much better it is here, and then go out there to teach the world about western thought."  With this, maybe we can say that Bryn Mawr (along with thousands of other western institutions) may not be so concerned with what international students can bring to the campus, but what Bryn Mawr can "gift" them with and then bring back to their own countries.

Imbedded, systematic imperialism is a really depressing conclusion to come to.



jccohen's picture

what international students bring


I appreciate your highlighting of the Japanese as well as the Chinese scholarship programs, and in terms of addressing areas less addressed by Erin, I’d like to hear more about the origins and reasons for the Japanese program and also about some of the accomplishments you describe as “impressive”; enticing opening, and I’d like more detail! 

 Your point about whether the scholarship programs represent a kind of “altruistic western imperialism” couched in the world of higher education is a provocative one, and a tricky kind of question to trace.  From what you say here, I gather that your sources are all from the perspective of people likely identified with the institution of the college, e.g. writers of the Alumnae Bulletin.  This raises interesting questions about the perspectives of the East Asian students themselves:  What were their motivations for applying for these scholarships and coming to Bryn Mawr?  What kinds of experiences did they have here and what did they take from the time at the College when they graduated and moved on to the rest of their lives?  That is, this beginning research raises the issue of the agency of these women themselves as they negotiated their lives at and beyond Bryn Mawr. 

 You end with this (indeed disturbing) thought:  “(M)aybe we can say that Bryn Mawr (along with thousands of other western institutions) may not be so concerned with what international students can bring to the campus, but what Bryn Mawr can "gift" them with and then bring back to their own countries.”  I think this is an important kind of question to pursue, and also I want to problematize this not only in terms of the women’s own agency (as noted above) but also in terms of our thinking about “institutions”:  How might we understand the various and perhaps more complicated messages and missions within the institution and over time?


jccohen's picture

are these women visible today?

What does it mean that these women (the two Erin writes about at some length and those Ishin refers to more broadly) were on Bryn Mawr's campus over significant periods of time and seem not to be marked on the larger canvas of the college's history?  This situation/question seems to me particularly provocative given the current scenario, in which a number of east Asian students are on campus and yet perhaps also go relatively unmarked, at least given their numbers.  What do we make of this?