Beate Sirota Gordon, mother of Japan’s constitution
James Brooke, the Tokyo Bureau Chief of the New York Times, and Dartmouth alumni, does a wonderful profile of Beate Sirota Gordon, the American who helped to write Japan’s modern constitution.
On the stage, Beate Sirota Gordon, a snowy-haired American grandmother, implored Japanese women to rise in defense of the Japanese Constitution’s equal rights clause, which was fundamental, she said, to their rights as women.
She should know. At age 22, she wrote it.
“Japanese women should keep fighting for their rights,” Beate-san, as she is known here, said in Japanese to applause from the sold-out crowd.
“Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis,” she said, reading the scarf, which was printed in the six languages she speaks – English, Japanese, Russian, German, French and Spanish. “With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.”
For critics who say these are imported concepts, Ms. Gordon told her audience that many of Japan’s core cultural attributes were borrowed from overseas – Buddhism, ceramics, ancient court music and the character writing system.
Fighting to Protect Her Gift to Japanese Women [nytimes.com]