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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Beate Gordon, drafter of the equal-rights clause of the Japanese constitution, dies

Beate Sirota Gordon, the American woman who drafted the equal-rights clause of the post-war Japanese constitution, has died

Having grown up in Japan, where her father was a successful concert pianist, Gordon returned to the country after WWII as an interpreter for General MacArthur. There, she found herself the only woman assigned to MacArthur's secret constitutional committee, and was assigned control over the section on women's rights. 

As the New York Times reports:
"She had seen women’s lives firsthand during the 10 years she lived in Japan, and urgently wanted to improve their status...
Commandeering a jeep at the start of that week in February, she visited the libraries in Tokyo that were still standing, borrowing copies of as many different countries’ constitutions as she could. She steeped herself in them and, after seven days of little sleep, wound up drafting two articles of the proposed Japanese Constitution. 
One, Article 14, said in part, “All of the people are equal        under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”
The other, Article 24, gave women protections in areas including “choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters.” 
Though Gordon remained quiet about her participation in the process for many years, she tells her story in JAPAN'S PEACE CONSTITUTION, which explores the origins of the post-war constitution and the contemporary effects of its peace clauses. 

After returning to the U.S. in the 1950s, Gordon was instrumental in bringing Asian arts and artists to the United States, first at the Japan Society, and later the Asia Society, both in New York. 

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