A young woman meets her many grandmothers

BY WENDI WHEELER ’06

Last year, Krystal Mattison ’10 studied in Korea. Many students who study abroad are profoundly affected by the experience. For Mattison, a history and American Indian studies major from St. Paul, spending the year abroad was a life-changing opportunity to bond with her new grandmothers.

Mattison is the granddaughter of a “comfort woman.” During World War II, thousands of Korean women were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military. Some of these women did not survive their ordeal, and many were unable to have children as a result of their treatment. Furthermore, the women were unable to talk about their experiences until many years later.

During Kyrystal Mattison’s year in Korea, she became friends with women, like her own grandmother, called “comfort women,” who were abused by the Japanese military during World War II.

Her grandmother died when Mattison was five years old, but she heard the story from her father. While in Korea, Mattison spent time at the House of Sharing, an organization in Seoul that houses and cares for the surviving comfort women. She says that after she told them about her grandmother, the women became her adopted grandmothers (halmonis), even giving her the Korean name Soo-Jeong. “They spoiled me, holding my hands and feeding me,” she says.

She learned from the women, who now think of themselves not as victims but as survivors and activists, that speaking out against violence is an important part of the healing process. “This experience brought me so much completion that I had to do something.”

That “something” was to connect with Jessica Nathanson, assistant professor of women’s studies and director of Augsburg’s Women’s Resource Center. After Mattison shared her grandmother’s story and her own experience in Korea, the center agreed to donate the proceeds from its annual benefit performance of The Vagina Monologues to the House of Sharing.

Eve Ensler’s episodic play began off-Broadway in 1996. Each year, The Vagina Monologues and other theatrical productions are presented across the country by women on college campuses on V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls.

“Since the purpose of performing this show is to fight violence against women by raising awareness about the issue and funds for organizations who do this work, we feel like it was a tremendously successful event,” says Nathanson. “The performances were excellent,” she adds, “beautifully and powerfully delivered.”

This year’s production raised more than $800 through ticket sales and donations, which amounts to 940,000 Korean won.

“This is such a personal issue for me, and I think it’s amazing that the women of Augsburg took it on,” Mattison says. At the end of each Augsburg performance, Mattison gave a speech about her grandmother. “I felt like she was there with me.”

The Vagina Monologues was directed by Julia Sewell, a senior psychology major from Minneapolis. The cast included Irene Abdullah, Veronica Berg, Kia Burton, Amber Davis, Rebecca Dickinson, Sarah Gillund, Annika Gunderson, Lucreshia Grant, Elizabeth Hanson, Brandy Hyatt, Valencia McMurray, Lily Morris, Kris Ness, Magdalen Ng, Shannon O’Brien, Yasameen Sajady, Leann Vice-Reshel, Rochelle Weidner, and Courtney Wiley.

Posted in It Takes an Auggie