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Sidney Gulick (1860–1945)

Dr. Sidney Gulick, Adventuring in Brotherhood: Among Orientals in America (1925).
Dr. Sidney Gulick, Adventuring in Brotherhood:
Among Orientals in America (1925).

Minister, educator, and writer Dr. Sidney Gulick was a third-generation missionary whose service in Japan led to a lifelong commitment to improving Japanese-American relations. Born in the Marshall Islands, Gulick was educated in the United States and graduated from Dartmouth. After earning a master's degree from Union Theological Seminary in 1886, he was ordained a Congregational minister, and, upon his marriage to Clara Fisher, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent the young couple to Japan.

In Japan, Gulick preached broad Christian doctrine and taught English, science, and other subjects. Learning Japanese, he observed the modernization of the Japanese economy, and, in numerous writings, sought to explain Japanese culture and character to an American audience. With his work in theology, this scholarship later earned him several honorary doctorates. Gulick also taught theology at Do-shisha University and at the Imperial University of Kyoto before returning to the United States for health reasons in 1913.

For the next 20 years, Gulick worked for the Federated Council of Churches, a multi-denominational, Protestant organization that promoted church unity and presented a religious perspective on public issues. Although Gulick served on numerous commissions, his primary concerns were immigration reform and fair treatment for the many Japanese who lived on America's West Coast. Under the terms of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907–1908, further immigration from China and Japan was prohibited, and Asian residents were declared ineligible for naturalization. In California, the Issei, or first-generation Japanese, were not allowed to own land, and there had been attempts to segregate the San Francisco schools. The popular press, supported by labor unions that feared economic competition, denounced the "yellow peril" in inflammatory terms.

After his quota proposal failed, Gulick worked for the broader peace movement, calling for disarmament and for US participation in the World Court. In 1926, he founded the Committee on World Friendship Among Children, hoping that good will among children would lead to cooperation among nations. He arranged a gift of more than 12,000 dolls for the children of Japan, with accompanying notes from American children.

In 1934, Gulick retired from the Federated Council of Churches, although he continued to write about peace even as the tensions between Japan and the United States grew. An idealist, Gulick had overemphasized immigration restriction as the cause of the conflict, and his experiences as a missionary had limited his understanding of Japanese imperialism. His was, however, a persistent voice opposing racial discrimination against the Japanese, and he hoped that, after the war, beneficial change would occur in both countries. Gulick died in 1945 at his daughter's home in Idaho.

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