Book Announcement: The White Plum: A Biography of Ume Tsuda, Pioneer of Women’s Higher Education in Japan

Via University of Hawai’i Press.

9780824853396The White Plum: A Biography of Ume Tsuda, Pioneer of Women’s Higher Education in Japan

Author: Furuki, Yoshiko
196 pp.
January 2015
Cloth – Price: $31.00
ISBN: 978-0-8248-5339-6

Categories: Asia, history, biography


At the age of six, Ume Tsuda (1864-1929), the daughter of a progressive samurai, was sent on a mission by the Japanese government with four other girls to the United States. Their noble task was to first educate themselves in modern ways and Western learning, and then return to bring that gift to their sisters in Japan. Ume was cared for in the United States by Charles and Adeline Lanman, and she grew up in Washington, D.C., studying at private schools and becoming a Christian.

At seventeen she finally returned to her country of birth, determined to carry out her mission. Back in Japan she found a new government quite unprepared to make use of her skills, but even more troubling was her startling self-discovery: unable to speak, read or write her native language fluently, she was faced with a homeland in which she was a foreigner, customs she did not understand, and a family she did not know and with whom she could not fully communicate. With the brave resilience of her namesake, the white plum that blooms in the last harsh days of winter, Ume was undaunted. Thriving on challenge, she devoted the rest of her life to seeking a way to achieve the goal of making modern higher education available to Japanese women for the first time. After several attempts, and two periods of advanced study abroad at Bryn Mawr College and Oxford, she eventually founded her own English School for Women. Later named Tsuda College, it has remained one of the bastions of women’s higher education in Japan to this day. In her later years, Tsuda was not only an honored and influential educator in her own land and a founder of the Japanese YWCA but a cultural ambassador who met and exchanged correspondence with leading figures of her day.


About LM

Musings on geekery and gender with a Japan focus.
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