Distinguished Women of Past and Present

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Raicho Hiratsuka


Raicho Hiratsuka was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1886. Her father was in government service. Educated at the Japan's Women's University, she began crusading very early for women's rights. She acknowleged boldly that women were not born only to serve men.

After graduating from the university, she entered the Narumi Women's English School where she founded the bluestocking magazine, Seitou. The first edition in 1911 boldly called for women's rights. One of her contributors was Akiko Yosano who added her voice and literary pieces to the magazine. Journalists in general derided the new publication and the strange "new women" who wrote for the magazine. While Raicho's house was vandalized, other women who wrote for Seitou were either fired from their jobs or vandalized as well. Some quit from fear.

Raicho moved in with an art student somewhat younger than she. Attacks on her intensified and criticisms grew louder with the birth of her two children. Saddled with debts and her lover stricken with tuberculosis, she gave up the magazine but continued to lecture. After she found a factory hiring young girls and all were suffering from tuberculosis, Raicho and another pioneering woman, Fusai Ichikawa, founded the New Women's Society and lobbied the Diet for essential rights. In the twenties women could not even join political parties.

When World War II was over, she felt vindicated when General MacArthur drafted a constitution that even gave women the right to vote. For the next two decades she focused her energy on world peace and even in her old age, she marched against the war in Vietnam, attracting many sympathizers.

Contributed by Florence Prusmack, author of Khan: a romantic historical novel based on the early life of Ghenghis Khan, in 1998.

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