3 Female Firsts Who Marked an Important Milestone in Korean History

March 8th is the International Women’s Day.

As the world celebrates the achievements of women, we would like to introduce three among all the amazing female firsts who marked an important milestone in Korean history.

1. 박에스더 (Esther Park)
Korea’s first female doctor

1877 ~ 1910

– Esther Park attended Ewha Girls’ School, the first female school in Korea, and showed talent at learning English. When the missionary doctor Rosetta Sherwood Hall visited the school, Esther worked as an interpreter. Inspired by Rosetta’s surgery, she decided to become a doctor. 

– Rosetta took Esther and her husband, Yusan Park, with her when returning to New York to help Esther become a doctor. Esther studied at Women’s Medical College of Baltimore. Her husband worked on one of the farms in New York to support his wife. He died from tuberculosis right before her graduation.

– After graduation, Esther returned to Korea and worked at the first female hospital in Korea, 보구여관 (Bo-gu-yeo-gwan). She took care of thousands of patients and worked hard to train female doctors. At the age of 34, she died of tuberculosis, which took away her husband’s life.

2. 권기옥 (Gi-ok Kwon)
Korea’s first female aviator

1901 ~ 1988

– Gi-ok Kwon was an aviator and an independence activist.
She believed her aerobatics could help Korea to liberate from Japan during the Japanese colonization period.

– Actively participating in the independence movement since she was in school, Gi-ok Kwon was imprisoned for six months and, when she was released, went into exile in China and entered the Air Force School in Yunnan with the idea of bombing the Japanese Government-General of Korea in the air.

– She served in the Chinese Air Force for more than 10 years, fighting against Japan.

3. 이태영 (Tai-young Lee)
Korea’s first female lawyer

1914 ~ 1988

이태영 (Tai-young Lee) promoting a family law reform campaign

– She graduated from Ewha Womans University, became a teacher, and married Il-hyung Jung. On behalf of her husband, who was imprisoned for the independence movement during the Japanese colonization period, she raised her three children alone. She had to quit teaching and make a living by sewing. After Korea’s liberation, her husband came out of prison and encouraged her to study law. (She always wanted to study law.) At the age of 33, she enrolled in Seoul National University School of Law and became the first female student of the most prestigious university in Korea.

– Tai-young Lee was a pioneer of the women’s rights movement in Korea. She fought for women’s rights, leading numerous social movements to resolve gender discrimination and inequality. She established the Women’s Legal Counseling Center to help women who suffer from domestic violence and inequality. It, later on, became the Korea Legal Aid Center for Family Relations.

  1. This is my great grandmother!

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