In 1902 members of the Japanese Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) submitted a petition to the National Diet to abolish the custom of rewarding good deeds and patriotic service with the bestowal of sake cups. Alcohol production and consumption, its members argued, harmed individuals, endangered public welfare, and wasted vital resources.
The sake cup petition was only one initiative in a wide-ranging program to reform public and private behaviour in Japan. Between 1886 and 1912, the WCTU launched campaigns to eliminate prostitution, eradicate drinking and smoking, spread Christianity, and improve the lives of women. As Elizabeth Dorn Lublin shows, members did not passively accept and propagate government policy but felt a duty to shape it by defining social problems and influencing opinion. Certain their beliefs and reforms were essential to Japan's advancement, members couched their calls for change in the rhetorical language of national progress. Ultimately, the WCTU’s activism belies received notions of women’s public involvement and political engagement in Meiji Japan.
This fascinating study of women bound by God, home, and country will appeal to students and scholars of Japanese History, religious studies, and gender studies.
The author makes a valuable contribution to Japanese and feminist history...revising the traditional view that women were not involved in politics during this period. Highly recommended. All collections in modern Japanese history and the history of feminism in East Asia
Reforming Japan is a very fine book. Based on an impressive array of Japanese-language sources, Lublin’s work is a major English-language study about the initial quarter-century of the Japanese WCTU and the important role played by its leaders in the attempt to influence both public opinion and government into introducing social reforms that would benefit women and children in the new Japan.
This excellent work of scholarship addresses a sorely neglected aspect of Japanese and feminist history. Reforming Japan is very readable and its arguments are convincing. Lublin has thoroughly mined many Japanese-language primary sources and has constructed a highly sophisticated line of argument. She has succeeded in what the late Mikiso Hane used to call "resurrecting the forgotten women's voices." This book will be very well received by Japanese historians. It deserves to be on every scholar’s bookshelf.
Part 1: The WCTU in Meiji Japan: An Organizational History
1 The Founding of the WCTU in Japan: 1886
2 The Tumultuous Early Years of the Tokyo WCTU: 1886-92
3 The Organization and Development of the Japan WCTU: 1892-1912
Part 2: Under the Guise of National Strengthening and “Good” Citizenship: Pillars of the WCTU’s Reform Program
4 The Fight against Prostitution
5 The Struggle to Create a Sober Society
6 Imperial Loyalty and Patriotic Service Japan WCTU-Style
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