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Japanese Women and the Transnational Feminist Movement before World War II

Japanese Women in the Interwar Transnational Feminist Movement

Taeko Shibahara

Publication Year: 2015

This book traces the development of feminist consciousness in Japan from 1871 to 1941. Taeko Shibahara uncovers some fascinating histories as she examines how middle-class women navigated between domestic and international influences to form ideologies and strategies for reform. They negotiated a humanitarian space as Japan expanded its nationalist, militarist, imperialist, and patriarchal power. 


Focusing on these women's political awakening and activism, Shibahara shows how Japanese feminists channeled and adapted ideas selected from international movements and from interactions with mainly American social activists. 


Japanese Women and the Transnational Feminist Movement before World War II also connects the development of international contacts with the particular contributions of Ichikawa Fusae to the suffrage movement, Ishimoto Shidzue to the birth control movement, and Gauntlett Tsune to the peace movement by touching on issues of poverty, prostitution, and temperance. The result provides a window through which to view the Japanese women's rights movement with a broader perspective.

Published by: Temple University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

It is with great pleasure that I thank the many people whose support made this book possible. Initially, this project began as a dissertation for Doshisha University. My mentor, Gavin James Campbell, inspired me with his vision of historiography. He not only provided me with practical theories and methodologies...


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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pp. 1-6

This book is a study of the development of distinctive forms of feminist consciousness among Japanese middle-class women in Tokyo from 1871 to 1941 and their exchanges with mainly white, middle-class, American feminists. These Japanese women had the means to travel and also the...

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1. Laying the Foundations for an International Feminist Perspective: Challenging the Discourses of Civilization

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pp. 7-21

For many Western people, the idea of civilization was a corollary of modernity, or as Raymond Williams put it, “an achieved condition of refinement and order” in society, culture, and way of life.1 In particular, nineteenth-century establishment America saw itself as being in the most...

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2. “Carrying with Her New Ideals and a New Outlook”: The Development of Cross-cultural Contacts, 1902–1930

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pp. 22-57

This chapter deals with the development of feminist consciousness among Japanese women up to 1930 and how ideas from and cooperation with Western feminists were vital for the development of the wider organized women’s movement in Japan. Before exploring the major themes in...

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3. Generating a Feminist Movement through Peace Activism, 1915–1941

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pp. 58-81

Whereas suffrage was primarily a women’s rights issue fought for within single countries, activism for world peace emerged as an urgent and critical international women’s rights issue between the world wars. This chapter deals with the development of, and tensions between, international...

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4. From Private to Public: Ishimoto Shidzue and the Birth Control Movement up to 1941

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pp. 82-102

Of all the forms of social activism across the world in the period between the world wars, the birth control movement shed the most light on the fact that women’s privacy was constrained by the state. At its juncture with the woman’s body, the state regarded woman’s reproduction as a legitimate...

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5. Using Their Initiative at Home and Beyond: Suffragists’ Wartime Activism, 1931–1941

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pp. 103-126

Japanese feminists were gaining confidence in their role in the international suffrage and feminist movements by the beginning of the 1930s; however, international political developments struck a hard blow against the suffrage movement. In the period following the Manchurian Incident in...

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pp. 127-131

The writer Nogami Yaeko (1885–1985) wrote the passage in this epigraph in her short essay for Japanese Women. Nogami toured the world between 1938 and 1939. She made the trip at a critical time in history, with China and Japan fighting a war and the world lurching into the...

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Epilogue: Postwar Continuity

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pp. 132-136

It may be tempting to see the end of World War II and the occupation of Japan as marking a dividing line in the history of feminism in Japan, as if what followed was not part of a continuity of women’s efforts to achieve equality, and as if women’s agency in Japan began only after it was “parachuted...

Appendix A: Notable People

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pp. 137-144

Appendix B: Notable Organizations

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pp. 145-146


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pp. 147-184


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pp. 185-200


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pp. 201-207

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9781439910405
E-ISBN-10: 1439910405
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439910399
Print-ISBN-10: 1439910391

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2015

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Feminism -- Japan -- History -- 20th century.
  • Feminism -- Japan -- History -- 19th century.
  • Women's rights -- Japan -- History.
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