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The Bluestockings of Japan
New Woman Essays and Fiction from Seitô, 1911-16
by Jan Bardsley

“Jan Bardsley’s long-awaited study brilliantly captures the excitement, danger, and occasional disappointments the New Woman confronted in early twentieth-century Japan. Readers are given an intimate and incisive look into the New Woman’s social and political contexts, but more than that, through Bardsley’s graceful and at times gritty translations, we are allowed to hear her voice. No examination of women’s history in Japan would be complete without a chapter on Seitô. Similarly, no feminist library can be whole without Jan Bardsley’s The Bluestockings of Japan.” Rebecca L. Copeland, Professor of Japanese Literature, Washington University in St. Louis

“Bardsley’s excellent translations of declarations, essays, and short stories from Seitô allow us to hear Japanese feminist voices from the early twentieth century loud and clear. We feel the energy of the young women activists as they explore their potential as writers, sexual beings, and thinkers. Culling information from a variety of memoirs, histories, and Japanese critical studies, she provides biographical sketches for each of the contributors whose work she translates. This book marks a major step forward in the English-language materials available on the history of Japanese women, and it will facilitate the inclusion of Japanese women’s experience into the international history of the women’s movement.” Sally A. Hastings, Associate Professor of History, Purdue University, and Editor, U.S.-Japan Women’s Journal

The Bluestockings of Japan introduces English-language readers to a formative chapter in the history of Japanese feminism by presenting for the first time in English translation a collection of writings from Seitô (Bluestockings), the famed New Women’s journal of the 1910s. Launched in 1911 as a venue for women’s literary expression and replete with poetry, essays, plays, and stories, Seitô soon earned the disapproval of civic leaders, educators, and even prominent women’s rights advocates. Journalists joined these leaders in ridiculing the Bluestockings as self-indulgent, literature-loving, sake-drinking, cigarette-smoking tarts who toyed with men. Yet many young women and men delighted in the Bluestockings’ rebellious stance and paid serious attention to their exploration of the Woman Question, their calls for women’s independence, and their debates on women’s work, sexuality, and identity. Hundreds read the journal and many women felt inspired to contribute their own essays and stories.

The seventeen Seitô pieces collected here represent some of the journal’s most controversial writing; four of these publications provoked either a strong reprimand or an outright ban on an entire issue by government censors. All consider topics important in debates on feminism to this day such as sexual harassment, abortion, romantic love and sexuality, motherhood, and the meaning of gender equality. The Bluestockings of Japan shows that as much as these writers longed to be New Women immersed in the world of art and philosophy, they were also real women who had to negotiate careers, motherhood, romantic relationships, and an unexpected notoriety. Their stories, essays, and poetry document that journey, highlighting the diversity among these New Women and displaying the vitality of feminist thinking in Japan in the 1910s.

Jan Bardsley is Associate Professor of Japanese Humanities in the Department of Asian Studies, and affiliated with the Curricula in American Studies and Women’s Studies, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was the 2001 recipient of the J. Carlyle Sitterson Teaching Award for Excellence in Freshman Teaching. With Joanne Hershfield, she is co-director of the 2002 documentary film Women in Japan: Memories of the Past, Dreams for the Future, and is co-editor with Laura Miller of Bad Girls of Japan (New York: Palgrave, 2005).

Published by Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan
Michigan Monographs in Japanese Studies No. 60
Published 2007, 320 pp.
ISBN 978 1 929280 44 5, hardback, £40.00
ISBN 978 1 929280 45 2, paperback, £14.99