Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Harvard University Asia Center, Harvard University Press


Recent scholarship on the relationship between women and the state in Japan has approached this question from a variety of perspectives. Among other subjects, scholars have looked at women as targets of government policies;1 agents of specific parts of the state;2 participants in organized or institutionalized politics or movements;3 members of groups that interacted with state power;4 and objects of discourses about women and the state.5 This chapter explores the relationship of women and the state by examining discourses on “women’s rights” in the late nineteenth century (especially the 1880s and 1890s) and the interwar era (especially the 1910s and 1920s). Rights were a frequent topic of discussion among Japanese intellectuals and political activists, including feminist advocates, throughout this period.6 But the notion of rights underwent a change as the structure of the state, and Japanese people’s understanding of it, changed. Indeed, the discussion of rights in all their forms constituted a key element in the building of the modern Japanese nation.

Chapter of

Public Spheres, Private Lives


Gail Bernstein
Kate Nakai
Andrew Gordon


Copyright 2005 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Do not reproduce.



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