Professor Marnie Anderson: Starting Over in Meiji Japan: The Lives of a Former Samurai and His Ex Concubine

Sabine FRUHSTUCK's picture
January 20, 2021
California, United States
Subject Fields: 
Asian History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, East Asian History / Studies, Japanese History / Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies

Please join us Wednesday, Jan 20, 2021 at 4PM to 5PM for a live Q&A with Professor Marnie Anderson (History, Smith College).

Zoom link for live Q&A on 1/20/21 at 4PM: (Zoom ID: 925 5728 2471)
To watch Professor Anderson's talk before joining us for the live Q&A:
This talk examines the lives of two reform-minded individuals during Japan’s Meiji period (1868-1912): Nakagawa Yokotarō (1836-1903) and Sumiya Koume (1850-1920). I contend that this era of rapid modernization and social upheaval offered each of them a new start and the chance to create a new identity. In 1868, Nakagawa, a samurai bureaucrat bought out Sumiya’s geisha contract and made her his concubine. After moving in with Nakagawa and his wife, Sumiya gave birth to a daughter. Nakagawa then became interested in Christianity, and he sent Sumiya to Kobe College, an institution run by western missionaries. Ultimately, Sumiya decided that concubinage was sinful, converted to Christianity, and left Nakagawa, leading him to complain that “Jesus stole my mistress.” After their breakup, both played prominent roles as local reformers. Together their stories shed light on how individuals in late nineteenth-century Japan forged new gender roles and created a new world.

Marnie Anderson is Associate Professor of History at Smith College. Her recent publications include “The Forgotten History of Japanese Women’s History and the Rise of Women and Gender History in the Academy,” Journal of Women’s History (2020) and “Critiquing Concubinage: Sumiya Koume (1850-1920) and Changing Gender Roles in Modern Japan,” Japanese Studies (2017). She is completing a book manuscript about Okayama-based activists including Sumiya and Nakagawa entitled In Close Association: Local Activist Networks in the Making of Japanese Modernity, 1868-1920.

Lisa McAllister, PhD

Academic Coordinator & CGEP Site Director

Center for Middle East StudiesEast Asia Center 

and Latin American and Iberian Studies

California Global Education Project (CGEP)

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