RIP Beate Sirota Gordon

Beate Sirota Gordon, who at age 22 inserted groundbreaking guarantees of gender equity into Japan's constitution, has passed away:

At an age of only 22, Gordon was among those assigned to work on drafting a post-war constitution for Japan. She took it upon herself to include clauses of gender equality and women’s rights that weren’t even established in the U.S. at the time. She remained in Japan in 1946, participating in the negotiations between the top government officials of both the countries over the final wording of the constitution. Gordon moved to New York afterwards where she married and had two children, but she remained an active in promoting Japanese cultural exchanges and continued to praise the country’s renouncement of war, as defined in the constitution’s Article 9.

The New York Times has more details:

One, Article 14, said in part, “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”

The other, Article 24, gave women protections in areas including “choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters.”

I note that, even today, such protections for women are not specified in the U.S. Constitution, although they may be protected by other laws or judicial interpretations.

In 2005, her groundbreaking work was the subject of a documentary film directed by Tomoko Fujiwara and sponsored by prominent Japanese women, called The Gift From Beate. The film brought Gordon's story to the public as Japanese feminists sought to defend Article 24 from assaults by conservative politicians.

[Note: If there are less flattering things to be said about Sirota Gordon, they have been excluded because I am unaware of them, not as the result of any deliberate intent to whitewash her life. Please feel welcome to comment on the entirety of her work and life in this thread.]

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