Journal of Women's History
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.
Copyright © 2011 Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in Journal of Women's History 23:1 (2011), 38-55. Reprinted with permission by Johns Hopkins University Press.
Marnie S. Anderson. "Women’s Agency and the Historical Record: Reflections on Female Activists in Nineteenth-Century Japan." Journal of Women's History 23, no. 1 (2011): 38-55.Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/jowh.2011.0010