09 October 2006

A Shocking Marriage: Frances Fulghum & Uehara Nobuaki

The Mission was still reeling from the [missionary resignation] shock of 1925 when Sarah Frances Fulghum dropped a bombshell as unexpected as the resignation of the three couples. On May 29, 1927, her 37th birthday, Fulghum visited the Doziers with Uehara Nobuaki, a 23-year-old medical student. "We are engaged to be married," she announced. The one-time fiancée of Norman Williamson was widely known and highly respected as principal of Maizuru Kindergarten, where she resided, and founder-director of Seinan Gakuin's celebrated glee club. Uehara was a member of an English Bible class that Fulghum taught in her home. He was not a Christian, and his family strongly opposed his marrying the middle-aged foreigner.

Shocked and dismayed, the Doziers thought it their duty to share so consequential a matter with the other members of the Mission. The news triggered a barrage of criticism on Fulghum. Grace Mills, herself a single missionary for 12 years, wrote Frances that her relationship with Uehara embarrassed all single women who taught Japanese men in their homes and that the scandal might lead to the closure of Maizuru Kindergarten (it did not). Florence Walne censured her behavior as "selfish and unworthy beyond words." In rebuttal, Fulghum insisted that she was "not any longer a baby" and "it will all blow over if the Mission will only keep its head." But missionaries and Japanese alike urged her to return home for talks with her distressed mother before entangling herself with a Japanese mother-in-law. The Board offered to pay her travel expenses back to the States and asked her to indicate by telegram whether she would come. Her telegram read: NO.

Fulghum resigned from the Board and took a teaching position in Fukuoka's Kaho Middle School. She moved from her Mission residence to a small private house and made preparations for her marriage to Uehara. "They are acting in such a way," Kelsey Dozier told his diary, ''as to disgust any sensible people." The wedding took place on June 30, 1928, and the bride took the name Uehara Ranko. "Ran," a component of the name Frances as pronounced in Japanese, was written with a Chinese character meaning Dutch or Western [蘭 also 'orchid']. The "ko," meaning child [子], is the most common ending for a woman's name.

Uehara Nobuaki finished medical school at Kyushu University in 1929. Later he ran a small hospital in Wakayama, specializing in internal medicine and skin diseases. Though the hospital bore a Christian name, Immanuel, Uehara remained aloof from the church and was never baptized. During the Pacific War, Ranko suffered hardship and discrimination as a spy suspect. After the war , when the [Southern Baptist] Convention opened work in Wakayama, she helped with the Sunday school and worship services as organist, pianist, and soloist, until she was too feeble to attend. Upon her death in 1973 at the age of 82, funeral services were held in the Wakayama church. Ranko was survived by her husband and by two daughters and three grandchildren who were living in California and New Jersey.
SOURCE: The Southern Baptist Mission in Japan, 1889-1989, by F. Calvin Parker (University Press of America, 1991), pp. 121-122 


DGehman said...

As a sidenote, in the fall of 1945, Dr. Uehara and his family showed great hospitality to my father and several other officers from his ship, the USS Montour, APA-101. Of all his war experiences, it was only this one that my father would talk about: the tea, the small gifts, the conversation.

It was the experience of only a few hours across as few a number of days, but it is part of our family. I have a photo he took of the doctor, his wife and two daughters, but don't remember enough HTML to post it here.

silverbullet said...

Does anyone where the Kaho Middle School is/was located.