"For God, home, and country": The Woman's Christian Temperance Union and reform efforts in Meiji Japan

Dorn, Elizabeth A.
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
This dissertation focuses on the organizational development of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in Meiji Japan and on the activities its middle-class members undertook to achieve moral and social reform. It argues that the women who joined the society felt a great sense of duty as Japanese to promote national progress and that they considered widespread acceptance of their reform agenda and the Christian faith essential to Japan's advancement. These mutually reinforcing motivations informed their activism and led them to assume a dynamic role in trying to define social problems and guide public and private behavior. In developing this argument, this dissertation reveals that the members of the WCTU did not compromise their beliefs and principles to accommodate the government's imperialistic ambitions and program to mold a loyal and patriotic citizenry. Instead, they attempted to harness the power of the state and the imperial institution to further their aims. This dissertation makes extensive use of WCTU publications and writings by members to support this argument. It first proceeds chronologically with a three-chapter history of the WCTU's establishment and growth during the Meiji period. Particular foci in this overview include the impact of World WCTU missionaries on the formation of an organizational structure, conflicts among Japanese women over the agenda to be pursued, and activities members undertook to expand the union and arouse interest in their reform principles. The remaining three chapters follow topical lines of analysis. Chapters four and five provide, respectively, detailed discussions of select components of the WCTU's anti-prostitution and temperance campaigns. Chapter six addresses the nature of members' reverence for the imperial institution and outreach during the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars. Blending description of specific activities with analysis, these chapters illustrate how intertwined members' patriotism and sense of national duty were with their religious and reform fervor.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2003.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 232-251).
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viii, 251 leaves, bound 29 cm
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