In the Beginning, Woman Was the Sun

“In the Beginning, Woman Was the Sun
An authentic person
Today, she is the moon
Living through others
Reflecting the brilliance of others.


“…….And now the Bluestocking, a journal created for the first time with the brains and hands of today’s Japanese women, raises its voice.
…..Let’s us reveal our hidden sun, our unrecognised genius!
Let it come from behind the cloud!
That is the cry of our faith, or our personality, of our instinct, which is the master of all instincts”.

The manifesto of Seitō, September 1911

So begins the opening manifesto to the journal Seitō, (Bluestocking) founded in 1911, in Japan,  the last year of the Meiji period by a group of young women interesting in creating a forum for female self-expression.  The author of the manifesto and editor of the journal was Hiratsuka Raichō, born Haru Hiratsuka (1866-1971). She is considered to be the leader of the women’s movement in Japan.

Not content to let women blithely accept their position of subservience, Raichō began to call women to recover their original strength. We are reading, in the introduction of her autobiography “In the Beginning, Woman Was the Sun”, Columbia University Press (24 Nov 2006),

Hiratsuka_Raicho,(1886-1971) Image Credit: Wikipedia

”The journal [Seitō], immediately attracted attention. Other women’s magazines were already in existence, but they were mainly devoted to practical advice on home and family. Seito was the first to call for women’s spiritual revolution. Among its contributors were Yosano Akiko, Tamura Toshiko, and Okamoto Kanoko, who wrote fiction and poetry, and others who translated Chekhov, Maupassant, and Anatole France.”

Within two years of its founding, the journal began to shift from literature to larger issues affecting women, and became identified with candid discussions of female sexuality, chastity, and abortion—topics scrupulously avoided by other women’s journals of the era. Several issues of Seito were censored. The private lives of some of the contributors—their easy involvement in love affairs, their defiance of moral and social convention—also gave the journal notoriety as the “training school” for “New Women” or “made-in-Japan Noras.” In 1914, Raicho herself began to live openly with her younger lover, an artist named Okumura Hiroshi, with whom she had two children out of wedlock in 1915 and 1917. (Their relationship was monogamous, and they married in 1941.)”

Seitō was the first feminist group in Japan. It took its name from the Blue Stocking Society (rather a salon) that was founded by Elizabeth Montagu and other women in the 1750s in England.