Transnational Women's Activism: The United States, Japan, and Japanese Immigrant Communities in California, 1859-1920

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Overview

Following landmark trade agreements between Japan and the United States in the 1850s, Tokyo began importing a unique American commodity: Western social activism. As Japan sought to secure its future as a commercial power and American women pursued avenues of political expression, Protestant church-women and, later, members of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) traveled to the Asian coast to promote Christian teachings and women's social activism.

Rumi Yasutake reveals in Transnational Women's Activism that the resulting American, Japanese, and first generation Japanese-American women's movements came to affect more than alcohol or even religion. While the WCTU employed the language of evangelism and Victorian family values, its members were tactfully expedient in accommodating their traditional causes to suffrage and other feminist goals, in addition to the various political currents flowing through Japan and the United States at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Exploring such issues as gender struggles in the American Protestant church and bourgeois Japanese women's attitudes towards the "pleasure class" of geishas and prostitutes, Yasutake illuminates the motivations and experiences of American missionaries, U.S. WCTU workers, and their Japanese protégés. The diverse machinations of WCTU activism offer a compelling lesson in the complexities of cultural imperialism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Amid much talk about transnationalism, Rumi Yasutake has produced the real thing. Her research and insights into the three-way relationship between the American, Japanese, and Japanese-American WCTUs add great depth to our understanding of the complex interactions between the aspirations, achievements, and restraints of women working within different political and cultural environments A truly original contribution to women's history scholarship."

-Ellen Carol DuBois,author of Harriot Stanton Blatch and the Winning of Woman Suffrage

"A very impressive exploration of the fascinating and complex interaction between North American and Japanese women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Yasutake's book reminds us that the problems of transnational feminisms are not new, and that the challenges embedded in the U.S.-Japanese relationship-race, class, nation-were played out in gendered contexts as well."

-Sharon Sievers,co-author of Women in Asia

"Yasutake skillfully untangles the relationship between 'race,' gender, 'culture,' nationalism, and religion. Through a careful analysis of Japanese and English language sources, she presents the complex story of how the spread of the American WCTU's temperance movement to Japan was culturally imperialist on the one hand and yet served Japanese nationalist and imperialist ends in Asia and among the Japanese immigrants in California, while at the same time stretching the sphere of recognized political and social activity Japanese women could engage in near the turn of the twentieth century. Her work should be read by those interested in feminism, religion, 'race,' and 'culture.'"

-Brian Masaru Hayashi,Kyoto University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814797037
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 198
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Rumi Yasutake has taught at UCLA, California State University-Long Beach, and Konan University in Kobe, Japan, where she is an associate professor of American Studies.

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Table of Contents

1 Tilling the ground : American Protestant foreign missionary women in early Meiji Japan, 1869-1890 9
2 Sprouting a feminist consciousness : Japanese women's WCTU activism in Tokyo, 1886-1894 37
3 Managing WCTU activism : the Japanese way in late Meiji Japan, 1890-1913 77
4 Beyond Japan to California : Issei Christian activism in northern California, 1870s-1920 105
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