by Okawa Tadashi, chancellor
Kyoai Gakuen, Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture
On the Koyahara campus of Kyoai Gakuen there still stands one Western-style building. This is the Former Missionary Residence of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, which has been designated as an Important Cultural Property by Gunma Prefecture. It is now being used to house the archives of Kyoai Gakuen and serves as a witness to Kyoai Gakuen’s history and the legacy of the missionaries who served there.
Kyoai’s Founding and
the American Board of Commissioners
Kyoai Gakuen opened with the name Maebashi Eiwa Girls’ School in 1888 (Meiji 21), as the successor to Maebashi English School. The school was established because of the persistent request of Maebashi English School’s teachers, such as Fuwa Kiyo and Murayama Yuki, graduates of Kobe Girls’ School, and Sasao Nui, a graduate of Tokyo Hara Girls’ School. With the assistance of Fukasawa Toshishige, Takatsu Nakajiro, Fuwa Tadajiro, and Niijima Jo, among others, together with the support of local churches and the cooperation of American Board missionaries, the school was founded.
In the same year, the American Board established a base of operation (later to be called the Maebashi Mission Station*) in Maebashi, with Miss Shed as the first missionary. The first missionary couple, Rev.William and Mrs. Inez Noyes, were sent there in 1891. Also in 1891, the Board constructed a missionary residence (the West Building) beside the Girls’ School, followed in 1892 by a residence for the missionary teachers (the East Building, now Kyoai Gakuen’s Former Missionary Residence). In 1894 the Maebashi Mission Station was formally inaugurated.
For the next half-century after that, missionaries maintained and developed local Christian mission work, and at the same time, in Maebashi:
(1) they contributed to the formation of education at Kyoai by teaching English and Bible at the girls’school and by leading worship and showing the
lifestyle of contemporary women in the West;
(2) they established the Maebashi Kindergarten (Seishin Kindergarten), run by the Board; and
(3) they provided material and spiritual support and leadership for Jomo Orphanage.
Women Missionaries who lived in the East Building
A total of 16 missionaries resided at Maebashi Mission Station during half a century, 8 of whom were senior missionaries and their wives; the other 8 were single women missionaries. The main duties of the senior missionaries were to make regular visits to the churches within the district Maebashi Mission Station served, preaching and providing support, and their wives supported them in this. On the other hand, the single women missionary teachers undertook responsibility for the management and education of Seishin Kindergarten, in the position of principal. They had an important role in the education at Kyoai Girls’ School as well, as teachers of English, music, and the Bible. Here I will introduce the main single women missionaries who lived in the East Building, which is still in existence.
Miss Mary Helen Shed (at Maebashi 1887~1891)
Mary Shed was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 9, 1855, and graduated from Wellesley College, having majored in natural science. In 1887 she came to Japan and served as an English teacher in Osaka and Kyoto before going to Maebashi Mission Station as an educational missionary in September of that year. As a teacher at Maebashi Eiwa Girls’ School, she endeavored to build up the education there, and by supporting the churches in the Joshu region, she established the foundation of Maebashi Mission Station. Through Jomo Christian Women’s Association, she built up relationships with the women of the area, and in her own person provided an example of the lifestyle of a modern Western woman. She also worked for the establishment of Jomo Orphanage and Seishin Kindergarten. In March 1894 she left Maebashi, and after returning to the United States, she continued to provide material and spiritual support from Boston, which is where she passed away.
Miss H. Frances Parmelee (at Maebashi 1892~1899)
Frances Parmelee was born in Twinsburg, Ohio, on May 13, 1852, and graduated from Lake Erie Seminary. She came to Doshisha Girls’ School in 1877 in response to the request of Niijima Jo and Jerome Dean Davis. After a temporary return to the United States to nurse her sick mother, she came back to Japan again and was stationed at Tsu Mission Station in Mie Prefecture, before moving to Maebashi Mission Station at the request of Miss Shed. Around that time the movement to abolish licensed prostitution was becoming very noticeably active, and along with school colleagues, such as Tsune Gauntlett, Mitani Tami, and Kubushiro Ochimi, Miss Parmelee became a leader in this movement. In her old age, she lived in Kyoto and died there in 1933. She was buried in the Miyagawa family cemetery on Mt. Nyakuoji.
Miss Fanny E. Griswold (at Maebashi 1898~1931)
Fanny Griswold was born in Southport, New York, on Oct. 14, 1864. She graduated from prestigious Mount Holyoke College before coming to Japan in 1889 and taught at Doshisha in Kyoto before working with such people as Kashiwagi Gien at Kumamoto Girls’ School. After a year’s furlough, she returned to Japan in 1898, and at the strong request of Rev. Albrecht in Yokohama, she changed her assignment from Tottori Mission Station and went to Maebashi Mission Station. For the next 34 years, until 1931, she served in that area and made evangelism tours around the Joshu region (Gunma Prefecture), while continuing to be involved in the education at Kyoai Gakuen. She also became the second acting-head of Seishin Kindergarten and worked to establish early childhood education there. She also made her mark as a leader in the Kyofukai (Japan Christian Women’s Organization) and church women’s groups. With her return to the United States in 1931, Maebashi Mission Station closed.
Miss Cora F. Keith (at Maebashi 1899~1903)
Cora Keith was born in Brayton, Massachusetts in January 1873, and graduated from Mount Holyoke College. She served at the mission stations at Maebashi, Kyoto, Matsuyama, Niigata, Kobe, Tottori, and Miyazaki.
Miss Olive Sawyer Hoyt (at Maebashi 1902~1905)
Olive Hoyt was born in Portland, Maine on Feb. 7, 1874, and graduated from Mount Holyoke College. She served at the Maebashi, Kobe, and Matsuyama mission stations. From 1920 she was involved in women’s education as head of Shinonome Gakuen in Matsuyama.
Miss Marion E. Kane (at Maebashi 1926~1929)
Marion Kane was born in Dalton, Massachusetts on Nov. 20, 1899, and graduated from Columbia University. She served at the mission stations at Maebashi and Kobe. The maypole dance that she introduced at Kyoai Gakuen is still performed by students today. (Tr. SN)
*No longer in general use, the term “mission station” referred to a formal base of operation for mission work in a specific region.
Miss Mary Helen Shed 在橋(ザイキョウ)1887~1891
Miss H.Frances Parmelee 在橋1892~1899
Miss Fanny E.Griswold 在橋 1898~1931
Miss Cora F.Keith 在橋 1899~1903
Miss Olive Sawyer Hoyt 在橋 1902~1905
Miss Marion E.Kane 在橋 1926~1929