New Women's Association
The New Women's Association (NWA, also known as New Women's Society 新婦人協会, Shin-fujin kyokai) was a Japanese women's rights organization founded in 1920. The organization strove to enhance women's rights in the areas of education, employment, and suffrage. It also aimed to protect women from venereal disease by attempting to prevent men with these diseases from marrying, as well as by allowing women whose husbands had these diseases to get a divorce. The organization played an important role in changing Article 5 of the Public Peace Police Law, which had prohibited women from participating in public meetings. NWA also enlisted the help of men as advocates for women in politics.
The organization is widely credited for raising the issue of women's rights in Japan and influencing the Diet's decision to expand them. The Diet passed changes to Article 5 of the Public Peace Police Law in 1922. The organization disbanded in the same year under the authority of leader Hiratsuka Raichō.
The New Women’s Association was formed in an effort to allow women both freedom and the right to vote. The group's aims included raising the "social and political position of women in Japan." Furthermore, the organization strove to obtain gender equality in education and employment. The leaders, Hiratsuka Raichō, Ichikawa Fusae, and Oku Mumeo also focused on repealing or modifying Article 5 of the Public Police Law. This law prohibited women from participating in political activity publicly. The organization drafted two petitions advocating women's political rights.
In addition to this, the organization aimed to stop men with venereal disease from getting married. The group both lobbied for and drafted a petition in favor of this with the goal of protecting the women whose husbands had or would later contract a sexually transmitted disease. The petition that was drafted for this purpose would have also given a woman the right to divorce her husband if he had venereal disease or contracted one during their marriage. This petition gained more traction than the organization’s attempts to obtain women’s suffrage and rights, and even gained the support of the Japan Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
The New Women’s Association was formed in post-World War I Japan. This new organization formed under the leadership of figures such as Hiratsuka Raichō, who was one of the founders of Bluestocking. Hiratsuka Raichō asked Ichikawa Fusae to form a women's rights organization with Oku Mumeo starting in 1919. Oku had recently had a son, and she would carry him on her back to NWA meetings and use the pram to carry copies of the group's journal, Women's League (Josei dōmei).
The organization petitioned the Diet in order to bring about changes that would allow women to be politically involved, among other issues. On January 6, 1920, Hiratsuka, Ichikawa, and Oku gathered at Hiratsuka's residence. At this gathering, the three women and other activists drafted two petitions. One of the petitions was created to grant women citizenship and the ability to be politically active, while the other petition was created to protect women and require men to get tested for syphilis before getting married. The second petition also would have granted wives the ability to divorce their husbands and receive compensation in these cases.
NWA's first meeting was held on February 21, 1920 in Tokyo at the YMCA hall in Kanda. This first meeting had around 500 in attendance and 70% of the audience were male. The official charter of the group and membership rules were later announced on March 28, 1920. As of 1921, there were 412 members of the organization.
In 1920, Ichikawa Fusae left the New Women's Association. She was in the United States for two-and-a-half years, though her departure from the New Women's Association came largely as a result of Ichikawa and Hiratsuka's differing opinions.
Changes to Article 5 were passed in 1922, approved by both houses of the Diet. The New Women’s Association disbanded in the same year under the authority of Hiratsuka Raichō, who was sick at the time.
Critics of the NWA
Ichikawa and Hiratsuka differed politically and personally, so in 1920, Ichikawa left the NWA. Other critics of the NWA included Yamakawa Kikue and Itō Noe, who felt that NWA was lacking a socialist perspective. Further criticisms included the argument that the organization only represented middle and upper class women. These critics argued that the group failed to represent women who were poor, in the working class, or had children, as only women with free time would be able to be politically active. One group that sympathized with these arguments was the Red Wave Society, which was another women's organization active at the same time as the New Women's Association.
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