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Patricia Tsurumi's Factory Women

Decent Essays
In her book, Factory Girls: Women in the Thread Mills of Meiji Japan, E. Patricia Tsurumi details the working conditions of women employed in the textile factories of Japan during the Meiji Era of Japanese history. Tsurumi attempts to give a comprehensive description of the women’s stories and struggles, detailing the reasons for which women worked in the industry, as well as the working conditions they faced. Tsurumi begins her text by describing the importance of the women’s work to the nation of Japan, and ends it by discussing the sacrifices many women made for the good of their country, effectively painting them as heroes. However, she spends the vast majority of her text detailing the poor working and living conditions faced by the women…show more content…
More directly, Tsurumi states “for the majority of peasant families survival was impossible without women and their work” (Tsurumi, 16). This makes the importance of Japanese women to their households during the period of history prior to the Meiji Era indisputable. Nevertheless, even as familial roles changed during Japan’s shift to a money economy, the support women provided to their families remained steadfast, as the earnings they made at factories were often sent back to their homes to support their families. As the need for women to find jobs that could pay them in cash grew, the potential for women to help support their families, or the ability to reel “for the sake of the nation” attracted women and girls to the first silk reeling mill in Tomioka. Tsurumi affirms this by saying “service to the nation, family economic interest, or a combination of the two brought young women to Tomioka to become part of a proud elite striving both for national goals and for regional prosperity” (Tsurumi, 30). By portraying the act of working for a textile mill as a service to both their families and to their country, Tsurumi furthers the idea that the women of the time were heroes of their era. However, as…show more content…
Tsurumi says that only three options were given to most young women in Japan in the Meiji period: work at a textile mill, weaving house, or a house of prostitution. Tsurumi says that women in all three cases had effectively been “sold” by their parents into the workforce, and were without the ability to choose where they wished to work (Tsurumi, 187). To detail even further, Tsurumi says that girls working in any of these fields were effectively “purchased commodities” to their employers, and were treated as objects (Tsurumi, 188). This continues to support the idea that these women were victims of a society determined to society’s vulnerable populations for their labor and ignore their humanity. Despite this, the women of Japan’s textile mills worked tirelessly in harsh circumstances in an effort to support their families, and, as a result, also supported the larger local and national communities of which they were a part. In conclusion, Tsurimi says that a woman working in Japan’s textile mills “made [her contributions to the industrialized economy] for her family and herself, and not for the country or company” (Tsurumi, 198). Even if their contribution was not intentional, however, the impact the factory girls of Meiji Era Japan had on the industrialization of Japan’s economy is irrefutable, and showcases
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