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Takamure Itsue : social activist and feminist theorist, 1921-31 Carter, Rosalie Gale


This study focuses on the decade of 1921-31 in the career of social activist-historian Takamure Itsue (1894-1964). It is important to examine the concepts which developed early in her career as they formed the foundation of her later research on Japanese marriage and women's history. Takamure emerged as a poet and a theorist for the Japanese women's movement in the 1920s amidst the growing labour, agrarian, and feminist movements fueled by the turbulent economic change experienced nationally and internationally. It is essential to understand the pivotal themes which emerged in Itsue's work and to place these concepts within the context of the contributions made by other female activists in the late-Taisho to early Showa period and moreover, within the context of the leftist movement in general. During the first half of the 1920s Takamure had gained recognition as a poet and developed her four-stage theory of women's movements. In her poetry and articles she expressed her views on such matters as love, nature, and freedom. By the mid-1920s, Takamure had rejected the Western stage of women's movements and advocated a Japanese model of "New Feminism" which emphasized freedom, especially for women. She advocated the elimination of political and social authoritarianism which was controlled by the male-centred bureaucracy. She urged a shift towards an Asian society of agrarian self-government which emphasized harmony with nature, freedom from bureaucratic oppression, and women and men sharing in the production of the essentials of life. Through several debates in the late 1920s, including one with Marxist Yamakawa Kikue, Itsue further developed her views of anarchism. The publication of her women's anarchistic magazine, Fujin sensen (Women's front; March 1930-June 1931) allowed Itsue to focus her talents and express her position on issues such as urban versus rural economics and the feminist movement. Involvement with Fujin sensen also gave Takamure the opportunity to broaden her contacts with other anarchists, both male and female, and to expand her knowledge of farmers' issues. When the periodical ceased publication, Itsue, at the age of thirty-seven, embarked on a research plan which would take the rest of her life. Intrigued by the work of the eighteenth-century scholar Motoori Norinaga, she decided first to investigate the history of marriage, which she felt played a major role in the long chronicle of women's oppression. Itsue1s decision resulted from a gradual process strengthened by her activities in the 1920s. Some writers disagree with this statement and argue that Takamure's real contributions to Japanese history were made in the latter half of her life. Others contend that to ignore or negate the activities of the first half of her life presents an imbalanced view of her career. This thesis therefore uses a variety of "re-discovered" primary sources, including scholarly articles, periodicals and books to raise several historiographical issues related to the above two streams of thought. They include the role of Itsue's husband, Kenzo, in the virtual elimination of her anarchistic thought and views on the wartime period from her collected works. Further, Takamure1s intellectual development is discussed with respect to the following issues: (1) her alleged "ideological conversion" in 1940, (2) her agrarian concepts of the 1920s compared with those of the agrarian movement in the 1930s, and (3) her concepts of the Emperor and especially Shinto thought.

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