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The Only Woman in the Room

A Memoir of Japan, Human Rights, and the Arts

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.

Description

In 1946, at age twenty-two, Beate Sirota Gordon helped to draft the new postwar Japanese Constitution. The Only Woman in the Room chronicles how a daughter of Russian Jews became the youngest woman to aid in the rushed, secret drafting of a constitution; how she almost single-handedly ensured that it would establish the rights of Japanese women; and how, as a fluent speaker of Japanese and the only woman in the room, she assisted the American negotiators as they worked to persuade the Japanese to accept the new charter.

Sirota was born in Vienna, but in 1929 her family moved to Japan so that her father, a noted pianist, could teach, and she grew up speaking German, English, and Japanese. Russian, French, Italian, Latin, and Hebrew followed, and at fifteen Sirota was sent to complete her education at Mills College in California. The formal declaration of World War II cut Gordon off from her parents, and she supported herself by working for a CBS listening post in San Francisco that would eventually become part of the FCC. Translating was one of Sirota’s many talents, and when the war ended, she was sent to Japan as a language expert to help the American occupation forces. When General MacArthur suddenly created a team that included Sirota to draft the new Japanese Constitution, he gave them just eight days to accomplish the task. Colonel Roest said to Beate Sirota, “You’re a woman, why don’t you write the women’s rights section?”; and she seized the opportunity to write into law guarantees of equality unparalleled in the US Constitution to this day.

But this was only one episode in an extraordinary life, and when Gordon died in December 2012, words of grief and praise poured from artists, humanitarians, and thinkers the world over. Illustrated with forty-seven photographs, The Only Woman in the Room captures two cultures at a critical moment in history and recounts, after a fifty-year silence, a life lived with purpose and courage. This edition contains a new afterword by Nicole A. Gordon and an elegy by Geoffrey Paul Gordon.

From Publishers Weekly

Feb 01, 1999 – This engaging, modest account recalls the life and times of a woman who made significant contributions to both Japanese and American cultures, first as an advocate for civil rights clauses in the postwar Japanese constitution, later as a promoter of Asian-American amity through the arts for the Japan Society and the Asia Society. A daughter of internationally known pianist Leo Sirota, a Russian-Jewish emigre who settled first in Vienna, where the author was born, and then, with the shadow of Hitler looming, emigrated to Japan, where Sirota taught at the Imperial Academy of Music in Tokyo. There Gordon grew up and became, as she notes, "part Japanese." After attending college in California and working part-time monitoring Japanese broadcasts, she landed a research job in Japanese affairs at Time magazine after the outbreak of WWII; during the war she assumed a position on Gen. Douglas MacArthur's occupation staff, where she participated in the drafting of the new constitution, with particular attention to women's rights. Noting that she was frequently "the only woman in the room" during these experiences, she offers here quietly feminist, freshly illuminating observations about the two cultures that are distinguished by a persuasive international outlook.
The Only Woman in the Room
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  • $16.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Apr 11, 2014
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Seller: Chicago Distribution Center
  • Print Length: 176 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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