Hannah Ontiveros is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the history department at Duke. Her work focuses on 20th-Century U.S. women’s history, empire, and labor. Her dissertation, “The Personal is Imperial: American Women and the Engendering of Cold War Politics During the Korean War,” examines the roles of women providing voluntary foreign aid to Korea during the 1950s. From letter-writing to elected officials, to participation in church and missionary organizations, to working for the United Nations, American women mobilized their notions of the obligations of their gender in order to provide care, goods, and evangelism to war-torn South Korea. Women of vastly different political opinion worked through the same networks to provide the same services, all with the notion that it was their duty to look after South Koreans and support their struggle against global communism. It was through a devotion to human rights—in this case, a firm belief that every person had a right to access education and medical care, and to food and work, and the free practice of religion and politics—that many white, affluent American women found themselves influencing foreign policy even as they upheld their respectability in a milieu that valued keeping women firmly in a domestic sphere. In so doing, these women served in varying capacities as agents of spreading and maintaining American notions of development and relief, and with it U.S. hegemony and empire. Hannah’s work this summer will focus on Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and American Legion Auxiliary chapters in the Midwest. Traveling to archives in Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana, Hannah will examine the ways that ideologically disparate and institutionally decentralized organizations interacted with one another, the government, and supranational institutions in the pursuit of their commitment to providing aid to Koreans.”



Looking Back: Syngman Rhee Addresses the American-Korean Foundation, 1954

America’s Favorite Orphan