The Quakers and Japanese Women of Meiji

“The Quakers and Japanese Women of Meiji”
Toda Tetsuko (Josai International University)

Missionary support for non-Christian women became increasingly popular after the Civil War, including one Quaker women’s organization formed in Philadelphia in 1882.  The Women’s Foreign Missionary Association of Friends of Philadelphia launched a Japan mission in 1885 and a Tokyo Friends Girls School in 1887.  Philadelphia Quaker women taught at the school through the 1970’s.

A founder of this Foreign Missionary Association, Mary Harris Morris (1836-1924), developed close relationships with many Japanese women who would become pioneers in medicine, higher education, and social welfare.  These included Okami Keiko, Tsuda Umeko, and Ishii Fudeko.  Morris visited Japan in 1890 and 1892, and her activities were reported in Jogaku Zasshi (Women’s Magazine).

Morris’s ties with Nitobe Inazo and Tsuda Umeko were particularly important in spreading Quaker influence among educated Japanese women.  Kawai Michi, founder of Keisen Girls School, studied at Tsuda College and Bryn Mawr College.  Though not a Quaker, Kawai founded the Japan YWCA and became an advocate for international goodwill.  Jodai Tano became a Quaker through Nitobe and devoted her life to the Japanese pacifist movement.  She became the sixth president of Japan Women’s University (1958-65).  Fujita Taki, a Tsuda graduate and Quaker, was involved in the prewar suffrage movement.  She served as the fourth president of Tsuda College (1962-1973) and often participated in international conferences for women’s causes.  Quakerism was introduced to Meiji Japan by a Philadelphia Quaker women’s organization; its influence was strong in Japanese women’s higher education.

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