Educated Women of the Meiji Empress’ Court
Mamiko C. Suzuki
Examines the contributions of three powerful Meiji women and how their own education and ideas about Japanese women’s potential shaped how females were to participate in modern society
Gendered Power sheds light on the sources of power for three prominent women of the Meiji period: Meiji Empress Haruko; public speaker, poet, and diarist Nakajima Shoen; and educator and prolific author Shimoda Utako. By focusing on the role Chinese classics (kanbun) played in the language employed by elite women, the chapters focus on how Empress Haruko, Shoen, and Shimoda Utako contributed new expectations for how women should participate in a modernizing Japan. By being in the public eye, all three women countered criticism of and commentary on their writings and activities, which they parried by navigating gender constraints. The success or failure as women ascribed to these three figures sheds light on the contradictions inhabited by them during a transformative period for Japanese women.
By proposing and interrogating the possibility of Meiji women’s power, the book examines contradictions that were symptomatic of their struggles within the vast social, cultural, and political transformations that took place during the period. The book demonstrates that an examination of that conflict within feminist history is crucial in order to understand what radical resistance meant in the face of women-centered authority.
Cover image courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency.
Also available as an e-book.
Mamiko C. Suzuki is Assistant Professor of Japanese in the Department of World Languages and Cultures at the University of Utah.
Praise / Awards
"An important contribution to Japanese women’s history..."
"The title of Mamiko C. Suzuki’s first book suggests a narrowly focused monograph, but in fact hers is a wide-ranging study which builds upon a wealth of work in Meiji-period history to provide a missing piece of the puzzle: women who served the imperial institution."
—G.G. Rowley, The Journal of Japanese Studies
"Suzuki’s volume is an important contribution to the history of Meiji women narrowly and feminism more broadly. Indeed, it shows how complicated power was and can be and how study of its sources, its use, and the consequences of its use, both reaffirming and subjugating, can deepen understanding of women’s experiences and shed light on the many paradoxes in their lives."
—Elizabeth Lublin, Monumenta Nipponica
"Gendered Power is a concise and compelling exploration of three women whose activities and lives offer fresh insight into the Meiji era and the broader history of modern womanhood, education, and citizenry in Japan. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the history of Modern Japan or the global history of education."
—The Middle Ground Journal
"This is a fascinating exploration of gender and power which provides insight into the reasons for changing ideas about womanhood during the Meiji Era, using contemporaneous commentaries as well as scholarly references. ...the book brings robust vitality to modern readers’ perceptions of the tumultuous Meiji Era."
—Joanna Hosoya, The GALE Journal
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