Document Type

Article

Publication Date

11-15-2017

Publication Title

Japanese Studies

Abstract

This essay introduces the life of Sumiya Koume (1850-1920), a geisha who was a concubine before becoming an activist and social reformer. I use her story to examine two major shifts in women’s roles in Meiji Japan (1868-1912)—the decline of concubinage and a heightened divide between different categories of women: women based in households and those available for hire. I introduce Sumiya’s 1893 essay ‘I Recommend Against Becoming a Geisha or Concubine’, the only known piece written by someone who had worked as a concubine. After situating her essay within debates about concubinage and legal changes, I turn to the reception of her work. Sumiya’s life sheds light on the transitional nature of the early Meiji era, specifically the period of flux between the formal abolition of concubinage in 1882 and the advent of the state- sponsored ‘good wife, wise mother’ (ryōsai kenbo) paradigm in 1899.

Volume

37

Issue

3

First Page

311

Last Page

329

DOI

doi.org/10.1080/10371397.2017.1394781

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Rights

Licensed to Smith College and distributed CC-BY under the Smith College Faculty Open Access Policy.

Comments

Peer reviewed accepted manuscript.

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