Columbians Ahead of Their Time
Helen Kimsrc=
Helen Kim "Freedom is not just a word here, not just a concept taken for granted. Its meaning is in the air we breathe, in our thoughts, in our hearts."

Helen Kim (1899-1970)
PhD 1931

Helen Kim broke down barriers for Korean women by expanding their educational opportunities. The first Korean woman to receive a doctorate, Kim transformed Ewha College, a women's school founded by an American Methodist missionary in 1886, into the largest women's university in the world, with more than 8,000 students by the time of her death in 1970. Graduating from Ewha in 1918, Kim took on the task of educating Korean women as her Christian mission. She became dean of the college in 1931 and president in 1939 - just before the eruption of World War II. She kept the school going despite wartime hardship and strict Japanese control of the curriculum and administration. In 1945, at war's end, Ewha College became Ewha Womans University. The outbreak of the Korean War less than five years later forced Ewha to evacuate its Sinchon campus and set up makeshift quarters in Pusan. While remaining Ewha's president, Kim served as South Korea's official government spokesman and as founder and publisher of The Korean Times, an English-language newspaper. After the armistice, Kim and the Ewha leaders rebuilt the campus, adding more schools and departments, and a hospital. When she retired as president in 1961, the University's enrollment stood at 7,000 undergraduate and 65 graduate students.

Kim attended Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1930 at the urging of Ewha's president, Alice Appenzeller, returning to Korea after completing her doctorate in 1931. In 1954, Columbia's Korean alumni gathered at a ceremony in Seoul to mark the University's bicentennial. The New York Times reported that Kim, the only women among the 30 attendees, was praised by her fellow alumni "for perpetuating the traditional policy of free inquiry, free speech and free press."


Weatherhead East Asian Institute


Columbia's Guide for Teachers


Ewha Woman's University

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