Shidzue Katō

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Shidzue Katō

Shidzue Katō (加藤 シヅエ, Katō Shizue, March 2, 1897 – December 22, 2001) was a 20th-century Japanese feminist and one of the first women elected to the Diet of Japan. Katō was best known as a pioneer in the birth control movement and a strong supporter of Eugenics.


Katō Shidzue was born on March 2, 1897 in Japan to an elite family and was married to the progressive Baron Ishimoto Keikichi at age 17. Shortly after their marriage, Shidzue and her husband moved to the Miike coalfield in Kyūshū. For three years, they witnessed the horrendous conditions under which the men and women there worked. In 1919, the couple moved to the United States, where Shidzue studied in a secretarial program in New York City. Afterwards the couple returned to Japan, the Baron began working for the expanding Japanese empire, and the couple grew apart. She became involved with labor organizer Katō Kanju (who was also married). Only after many years was she given permission by the Imperial Household Agency to end her marriage to the Baron and to marry Katō Kanju. In 1946 Katō Shidzue joined the Japan Socialist Party, and was elected to the Diet of Japan. She continued her involvement in Japanese politics even after leaving the Diet, until her death at age 104 on December 22, 2001.

Political notes[edit]

  • 1922 - Acted as a guide to American feminist Margaret Sanger, whom she had met while in New York City in 1920. Shidzue provided important support, first helping her gain permission to land in Japan, and then to speak in public on birth control. In the following years, Shidzue brought Sanger to Japan six more times.
  • 1937 - Arrested because of her opposition to the militarist government's policy of producing as many children as possible.
  • 1946 - 1974 - Served in the Diet of Japan.
  • 1948 - Co-founded the Family Planning Federation of Japan, the Japanese affiliated of the International Planned Parenthood Federation
  • 1988 - Received the United Nations Population Award.
  • During the Cold War, surprised many by endorsing the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.
  • 1996 - The Kato Shizue Award is established by Dr. Attiya Inayatullah to commemorate her work. The Kato Shizue Award "targets women's groups, women's organizations and/or individual women who are active in the movement toward improvement of sexual and reproductive health/rights of women as well as empowerment of women (i.e., social, economic, political and legal empowerment) in developing countries and/or in Japan."


  • "Together Mme. Kato and Margaret Sanger changed the world. Every woman, in not only Japan and America, but also in the entire world owes them a debt of thanks." - Alexander Sanger, president of the Margaret Sanger Center for International and Planned Parenthood
  • In 1997, Japanese television devoted a 50-minute documentary to Katō Shidzue on the occasion of her 100th birthday.

Also known as...[edit]

  • Ishimoto Shizue (during her marriage to Ishimoto Keikichi)
  • Shidzue Kato
  • Shizue Kato