Japanese American Women and Activism Within the JA Community: Redress, Reparations, and Gender


Japanese American women, Issei through Sansei, are often taught values that identify very closely with their culture; in general, it is best to not question authority and do as you are told. Growing up, young girls are taught by their families to observe certain ascribed gender roles that involved taking care of family and becoming more domesticated. As a result, they are very rarely thrust into a limelight-filled life of activism and politics, and if they do participate in such activities, stay in the background completing all the “behind the scenes” tasks. It is the men, then, that are at the forefront of particular issues and receive much of the credit. For the Redress and Reparations movement, however, in looking at available sources to analyze the contributions Japanese American women have played, it becomes clear that without their hard work, dedication, perseverance, and leadership, the campaign would not have been anywhere near successful. Although it is names like Dale Minami, Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Minoru Yasui that are well-known, the question has to be asked – what about our women? Where is their recognition?

This project ventures on the topic of women’s roles in the Japanese American community, and, in looking at the lives and times of Nisei women Tsuyako “Sox” Kitashima, Aiko Yoshinaga-Herzig, Cherry Kinoshita, and finally Lorraine Bannai, who is a Sansei, seeks to more closely analyze the role of gender in their work, and question why it is that these women have not received more recognition for their accomplishments. Through this analysis, it becomes clear that for these particular women, family and culture were important. For Sox, Aiko, Cherry and Lorraine, although each had very different experiences in how their lives played out, each woman, with strong values and connections to the cultural traditions and ethics taught to them by their families, also were imbued with an internal strength that led them to seek out involvement in social justice issues, in matters that were larger than themselves. The work that they carried out both in their lives and in the Redress and Reparations movement operated most often under men and these women did not take leading roles as officers or spokespeople of the movement, nor were they aware of the gender roles that played out in this campaign.

However, in light of their gender, each woman overcame enormous adversity, both political and personal, to selflessly devote themselves to a community cause that ultimately, although male-dominated, was female-run. Whether they knew it or not, these four women are but a few of the strong, empowered Japanese American women who, while carrying with them with the influences of family-oriented Japanese tradition and culture, were able to contribute to and achieve incredible things for the Japanese American community as a whole. Here are their stories, and hopefully, finally the recognition that is so long overdue.

(Please view original items for full text and explanations, as those are my own.)

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cshikai — Atualizado em Jun 28 2021 1:49 a.m.

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