This article examines the small body of Japanese-language historiography on women’s activism in late nineteenth-century Japan. The era saw a sharp rise in the number of female activists, and yet the activities of these women have usually been interpreted as the result of male initiative. Only women who left a clear record in their own hand—demonstrating what I call “literacy agency”—are seen as full agents. I suggest that such understandings are insufficient by presenting four cases of women’s activism, including local women’s groups, geisha activists, a petitioner, and several writers. It turns out that female activists who displayed “literary agency” had important connections with male activists; at the same time, women who did not leave historical records were not necessarily passive appendages of men. I conclude by reflecting on some of the alternate ways we might conceptualize of women’s activism and its relationship to larger social networks.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 38-55
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.