For decades, critics of cultural imperialism emphasized racial nationalism and imperialism as the primary forces driving American missionary activity. While the internationalization of women’s missions in the early twentieth century overlapped with, and often complemented the United States’ imperialist goals, recent scholarship has revealed a more nuanced story. In both foreign and domestic fields, American missionary women adapted their methods to meet local conditions, advocated for indigenizing missionary facilities to encourage institutional autonomy, and relied on native field secretaries to reach communities skeptical of American missionary women.
This paper adds to this growing body of work by outlining the social and organizational alliances forged among American and Japanese Christian women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century transpacific. It then turns to two case studies – the Fujin Home for women in Seattle and the Japanese YWCA in San Francisco – to demonstrate the cooperative nature of female missionary activity on the West Coast. Through these missionary facilities, American and Japanese women subverted the rigid racial hierarchy white nativists sought to impose on the West Coast, while simultaneously building political coalitions to advance their internationalist and cosmopolitan agendas in the post-WWI era.