Middle-Class Working Women during the Interwar Years

TitleMiddle-Class Working Women during the Interwar Years
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1991
AuthorsNagy, Margit
EditorBernstein, Gail Lee
Book TitleRecreating Japanese Women, 1600-1945
PublisherUniversity of California Press

Although the Japanese prided themselves on having a unique family system that was the source of enduring national strength and unity, popular press accounts as well as statements by scholars and officials attest to the widespread concern over the apparent instability of the Japanese family in the 1920s. Against this background of growing concern over the forces of familial disintegration threatening Japanese society, the entry of middle-class women into the work force came under the worried scrutiny of government officials and opinion leaders. In surveys, questionnaires, and news stories throughout the 1920s, numerous researchers probed the possible effects of employment on women's "mission in life" (tenbun) as wife and mother. This and other questions posed in the 1920s suggest that the discourse on the working woman of the middle class touched at the heart of a much larger debate over social values, the institution of the family, and the gender role of women. Unresolved tensions surrounding these women's entrance into the labor force disclosed a society in transition and struggling to reconcile changes wrought by modernization and urbanization with the late Meiji construction of women as good wives and wise mothers.

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