Unsung Heroine of Japanese Women’s Rights Dies at 89

ImageBeate Sirota Gordon, a daughter of Russian Jewish parents, almost singled-handedly wrote women’s rights in Japan’s modern Constitution at the age of 22. She produced what became Article 24:

“Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual co-operation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.

With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.”

She also included women’s right to paid work, custody of children, property rights, inheritance, and to equal education. This she did entirely in secret until she wrote her autobiography.  Beate lived in Japan for many years and was horrified by how women were treated there. Women never came to parties; if their house hosted the party they served the men and ate in the kitchen alone. In public they always walked three to four steps behind men. They were usually married to men they didn’t know, could inherit nothing from their family, and could even be bought and sold.

Beate died on December 30, 2012, from what her daughter says was pancreatic cancer.





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