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Women and Public Life in Early Meiji Japan

The Development of the Feminist Movement

Subjects: Asian Studies, Japan
Hardcover : 9781929280667, 240 pages, 6 x 9, January 2011
Paperback : 9781929280674, 240 pages, 6 x 9, January 2011
Open Access : 9780472901609, 240 pages, 6 x 9, August 2020

Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities / Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program
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Offers a fresh perspective on Meiji Japan with a spotlight on women’s activities in the new public spaces of the era


Women and Public Life in Early Meiji Japan focuses on women’s activities in the new public spaces of Meiji Japan. With chapters on public, private, and missionary schools for girls, their students, and teachers, on social and political groups women created, on female employment, and on women’s participation in print media, this book offers a new perspective on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Japanese history. Women’s founding of and participation in conflicting discourses over the value of women in Meiji public life demonstrate that during this period active and vocal women were everywhere, that they did not meekly submit to the dictates of the government and intellectuals over what women could or should do, and that they were fully integrated in the production of Meiji culture.Mara Patessio shows that the study of women is fundamental not only in order to understand fully the transformations of the Meiji period, but also to understand how later generations of women could successfully move the battle forward. Women and Public Life in Early Meiji Japan is essential reading for all students and teachers of 19th- and early 20th-century Japanese history and is of interest to scholars of women’s history more generally.

Mara Patessio is Lecturer in Japanese History at the University of Manchester. In addition to publishing a number of articles in scholarly journals, she has edited (with P. F. Kornicki and G. G. Rowley) The Female as Subject: Reading and Writing in Early Modern Japan (Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, 2010).

"In this clear and wonderfully informative study, Mara Patessio steps beyond the more traditional focus on 'great lives' or 'important movements' to explore the complicated social networks that drew Meiji women together across boundaries of class and region earlier imagined as impermeable. While offering affecting portraits of notable female educators, students, writers, and activists, Patessio suggests that a host of other voices, until now largely forgotten, was every bit as significant in contributing to the emerging nation and fomenting the feminist movement in Japan."—Rebecca Copeland, Washington University in St. Louis

"An informative study on the 'necessary precondition' for the emergence of a feminist movement in modern Japan. Clearly written and well organized, this book will appeal to students and scholars interested in the historical experience of Japanese women in the late 19th century. . . . Historians interested in the historical experience of women in the early Meiji period will benefit enormously from reading Women and Public Life in Early Meiji Japan."—Bill Mihalopoulos, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

"In this well-researched and carefully argued study, Patessio challenges the long-dominant notion that women in the Meiji period were powerless because the state prohibited women from participating in the public political realm . . . Patessio succeeds in persuading the reader that women in Meiji Japan did not simply cease their activism because the state told them to do so."—Marcia Yonemoto, JESHO