Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Tag: Women

Episode 297 – As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams, Part 2

This week, we round out our look at the celebrated women of Heian Japan with two very different careers: that of the celebrated poet Akazome Emon and the recluse known either as Takasue’s daughter or Lady Sarashina. Plus some final thoughts on women in the Heian era.

Sources

Morris, Ivan. As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams

Watanabe, Takeshi. “Akazome Emon: Her Poetic Voice and Persona.” Yale Waka Workshop 2013 conference paper

Sato, Hiroaki. Japanese Women Poets: An Anthology.

Images

A karuta card for Akazome Emon.

Lady Sarashina would have come to the capital in a procession like this one. For a young woman, leaving the provinces would have been a big step in life.

Two pages of a transcription of the Sarashina Diary. Note the hiragana text; remember that hiragana was once known as “women’s hand.”

Akazome Emon gazes at the moon, by Hokusai.

Episode 296 – As I crossed a Bridge of Dreams, Part 1

This week: the start of a two-part series on women in Heian Japan. What makes the social position of women in the Heian Era so distinct from later points of Japanese history, and from the East Asian cultural sphere more generally? How do we know what we know about the lives of women? And what can we learn from the story of one particularly badass woman: the poet and “femme fatale” Izumi Shikibu?

Sources

A complete translation of the Diary of Izumi Shikibu.

A writeup on Women in Traditional China by Patricia Ebrey, one of the best scholars on premodern China out there.

Mulhern, Chieko Irie. Japanese Women Writers: A Bio-critical Source Book

Keene, Donald. Travelers of a Hundred Ages.

Yoshie, Akiko. “Family, Marriage and the Law in Classical Japan – An Analysis of Ritsuryo Codes on Residence Units.

Images

A print of Izumi Shikibu by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from the mid-Edo period.

A transcription of one section of the Izumi Shikibu Diary. Note the flowing nature of the cursive writing and the mixture of Chinese characters and kana — unusual for written work by women.

Another illustration of Izumi Shikibu with her Hyakunin Isshu poem.

An illustration of Izumi Shikibu with one of her poems from the Hyakunin Isshu (Collection of one hundred poems by one hundred poets), one of the most popular poetry collections in Japanese history.

 

Episode 193 – No Country for Young Women, Part 2

This week: what are three educated women to do in a society that doesn’t value their education?

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Nimura, Janice. Daughters of the Samurai.

Furuki, Yoshiko. The White Plum, a Biography of Tsuda Ume.

Tsuda, Umeko and Yoshiko Furuki. The Attic Letters: Ume Tsuda’s Correspondence to her American Mother.

Some excellent biographical sketches of Ume, Shige and Sutematsu are available here.

Images

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Nagai Shige as a college student at Vassar.

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Yamakawa Sutematsu as a student at Vassar.

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Oyama Iwao and Sutematsu together. Initially a political marriage, by all accounts the union became a very happy one.

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Tsuda Ume in her dorm room at Bryn Mawr. This makes me feel much better about how my dorm looked in college.

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Alice Bacon with Shige, Sutematsu, and Ume during her time working for the Joshi Gakushuin.

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Anna Cope Hartshorne, Tsuda Ume’s closest friend and collaborator in building Tsuda College.

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The modern campus of Tsuda College in Kodaira. The school’s tremendous success can be attributed in part to the amazing energy of its founder.

Episode 192 – No Country for Young Women, Part 1

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Empress Shoken in Western-style court dress. She was charged with seeing off the five girls and giving them their mission.

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The girls on arriving in the West. From left to right: Ryo, Sutematsu, Shige, Ume, and Tei.

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Adeline and Charles Lanman.

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From left to right: Ume, Sutematsu, and Shige.

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Shige as a young girl living in New Haven.

This week: the beginning of a two parter on Japan’s first ever female exchange students.

Listen to the episode here.

You can check out Astra Nullius here.

Sources

Nimura, Janice. Daughters of the Samurai.

Furuki, Yoshiko. The White Plum, a Biography of Tsuda Ume.

Tsuda, Umeko and Yoshiko Furuki. The Attic Letters: Ume Tsuda’s Correspondence to her American Mother.

Some excellent biographical sketches of Ume, Shige and Sutematsu are available here.

Images

 

 

Episode 37 – Women Warriors

This week, we’ll be tackling an oft-requested topic; women warriors in the samurai class. Contrary to what you might think, women were actually very active in the roughly 800 years that make up the dominant time of the samurai class. Today, we’ll be discussing just a few of them and learning about their accomplishments during Japan’s war-torn past.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Amdur, Ellis. Women Warriors in Japan: The Role of Arms-Bearing Women in Japanese History

McCullough, Hellen Craig, trans. The Tale of the Heike.

Sansom, George. A History of Japan, vol. I and II (Prehistory-1334, 1334-1615)

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

A Meiji period depiction of Empress Jingu, leading Japanese troops in Korea during the 200s AD.

A Meiji period depiction of Empress Jingu, leading Japanese troops in Korea during the 200s AD.

The European-style portrait on this 1881 one yen banknote is supposed to be Empress Jingu -- she was a popular figure in the Meiji Period, though her martial aspects were downplayed somewhat.

The European-style portrait on this 1881 one yen banknote is supposed to be Empress Jingu — she was a popular figure in the Meiji Period, though her martial aspects were downplayed somewhat.

A female member of the samurai class practicing with weapons. Generally speaking, women are associated with the naginata, a bladed polearm -- the theory being that it made up for the shorter reach of most women compared to men. However, women are described using a wide variety of weapons throughout Japanese history.

A female member of the samurai class practicing with weapons. Generally speaking, women are associated with the naginata, a bladed polearm — the theory being that it made up for the shorter reach of most women compared to men. However, women are described using a wide variety of weapons throughout Japanese history.

Tomoe Gozen in action. Note the decapitated corpse beneath her.

Tomoe Gozen in action. Note the decapitated corpse beneath her.

Hangaku Gozen, as depicted in a print by Edo-period artist Yoshitoshi. Her armor is probably not accurate to the period (being based off Edo era designs rather than Kamakura-era ones).

Hangaku Gozen, as depicted in a print by Edo-period artist Yoshitoshi. Her armor is probably not accurate to the period (being based off Edo era designs rather than Kamakura-era ones).

Nakano Takeko. This picture was taken only a few months before her death.

Nakano Takeko. This picture was taken only a few months before her death.

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