The story of this Japanese woman changed her country forever

This powerful woman became Japan’s first college-educated female and changed the lives of Japanese women forever, sacrificing her own happiness. Read on to find out more about this inspiring story.

Before 1868, Japan was in a reclusive feudal state for 250 years. The country was isolated from the rest of the world. When the Meiji emperor came to power, the Japanese society started changing and moving to a Westernized form.

She was left all alone

Shortly after, the girls were separated. The eldest two (aged 16) gave up and returned home. Yamakawa and the other two girls spent another several months in the USA together – they were so afraid they only communicated with each other and didn’t learn any English.

Yamakawa was sent to a foster home and got a new name

All girls were sent to different families in the end. “Sutematsu” was a difficult name to pronounce for Yamakawa’s new guardians, so they gave her a new one – Stemats. Later she was sent to public school.

Sutematsu Yamakawa decided to change the situation

Yamakawa and the other two girls she was sent to the USA with - Shige and Ume - decided to work towards opening a school for girls in Japan. They had a common goal and a plan, but they didn’t have money.

Yamakawa married a man she didn’t love to pursue her dream

Ōyama Iwao was the Imperial Japanese Army general. He was 42 years old. He was a widower and had three children. He married Sutematsu in 1883.

Her new surname was Ōyama, which means “Great Mountain”

And the things Sutematsu did were great. First, she opened a school for noble women. As now she was close to the empress, she became a gossip target. Then her stepdaughter died of illness, and the society blamed Sutematsu. Everyone called her a villain. She was isolated from the people of her country again. But she continued working. She wanted to spread the knowledge and give every woman of her country a choice.

Have you ever heard this story before? Do you know any other interesting facts from women's history? Did Sutematsu's experience inspire you?

We are waiting for your comments!!

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Your opinion matters
Kathy Phillips
very interesting
Jan 9, 2020 4:45PM
Renato Pelejo
Interesting story of the early Japanese women.
Jan 8, 2020 9:30PM
Phyllis Scarlett
Had heard of her but didn’t many details. Very interesting
Jan 4, 2020 10:05PM
Brigitte Kurowski-Wilson
She was an exceptional brave women. I think of her as a hero.
Nov 24, 2019 8:22PM
Joe Beaupellet
Interesting story.
Nov 5, 2019 1:23AM
Darlene Davidson
I had never heard of her. She made her mark in advancing the cause of educating females.
Oct 30, 2019 8:04PM
Rafi Manory
Japan is still quite behind in women education and employment.
Oct 28, 2019 7:51PM
Philomena Lobo
No. Did not hear this story before. Quite an eye opener
Oct 17, 2019 4:59AM
Cheryl McMeekin
Very interesting story, never heard of her.
Sep 12, 2019 11:12AM
Criona Walsh
Interesting story
Sep 11, 2019 11:57PM
Todd Cates
👍 Determined Pioneer for her time.
Aug 29, 2019 12:49PM
Joshua P. Hatcher
Education is the backbone of the human race.
Aug 28, 2019 8:38PM
Patricia Holt
Another historical subject to research. Very interesting.
Aug 27, 2019 1:29PM
Mart Monica
I have no idea! Thank’s
Aug 26, 2019 5:24PM
Marian Spitzig
Very brave woman. I have never heard this story. Thanks.
Jul 17, 2019 7:56PM

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