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Words of Wisdom - Kishida Toshiko

©1996-2013
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"If it is true that men are better than women because they are stronger, why aren't our sumo wrestlers in the government?"

Kishida Toshiko

Kishida Toshiko (1863-1901) used snappy phrases such as this to attack the view that men by nature were superior to women. Once a lady-in-waiting to the Empress, she left that life saying that the court was "far from the real world" and a symbol of the concubine system which was an outrage to women. She became a talented and exciting public speaker. Kishida was the first woman to travel all over Japan, addressing huge crowds. She was imprisoned for her beliefs, but continued to speak out. She said that a civilized country should be ashamed to respect men and yet despise women. She claimed that both were needed to help build the new Japan. After hearing Kishida's lectures, a number of women threw themselves into efforts to achieve stronger rights for women. They became know as Japan's "first feminists" and managed to make some gains during the first liberal phase of the Meiji Era. This ended in 1889 with the passing of laws which not only denied women voting rights, but even the right to join political parties, attend political gatherings, or take political science courses.


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Women in World History Curriculum