Organized Panel Session
The Meiji era (1868-1912) saw major transformations in the practice and content of education in Japan. Whereas Tokugawa (1600-1867) education was decentralized and occurred in mixed-sex classrooms, the Meiji period brought the rise of single-sex education and the ideal--though not the practice--of universal education. State policies guiding girls’ education took shape around the turn of the twentieth century; this paper, however, focuses on the period before ryōsai kenbo (good wife, wise mother) was articulated as the state’s policy for middle-class women’s education in 1899. I assess the contributions of three single women to the San’yō Gakuen school for girls, a private institution founded by Japanese Protestants in Okayama City in 1886. My focus is on the work of Sumiya Koume (1850-1920), Ōnishi Kinu (1857-1933) and Kajiro Yoshi (1871-1959). Ōnishi taught at the school, ran the finances, and supervised the students at the dormitory. The much younger Kajiro graduated from Mt. Holyoke College in 1897 and taught at San’yō before becoming its principal in 1908. Sumiya started her own school in the early 1880s and later provided financial support to San’yō. My first aim is to provide a glimpse of the multiple and sometimes conflicting justifications for women’s education at a critical moment of transition before “good wife, wise mother” took hold. A second aim is to demonstrate the central and often overlooked contributions of women—in this case, single women--to early Meiji-era education.