Past histories of the Japanese experience in the Islands have emphasized “the reticent and subservient picture bride and the hard-working, silent plantation field laborer,” writes Kelli Y. Nakamura in her article “Issei Women and Work: Washerwomen, Prostitutes, Midwives, and Barbers.” While authentic enough, these characterizations are simplistic and fail to portray the wide range of activities performed by Issei women, according to Nakamura.
Economic conditions enabled many Issei women use their skills as domestic workers to extend their influence outside the family sphere and create economic opportunities beyond the agricultural fields. Many found opportunities in traditional “women’s work,” such as laundering, cooking, and sewing. Others were active as midwives and barbers, two professions that were dominated by Japanese women, and some even out-earned men by working as prostitutes. According to Nakamura, these women rendered key services in the development of Hawai‘i’s economy, though their contributions have been overshadowed by the stereotype of the passive picture bride and industrious but silent field laborer.
Nakamura’s article is in good company with the articles and book reviews that make up this volume of the Hawaiian Journal of History. Other featured articles include:
- Race, Power, and the Dilemma of Democracy: Hawai‘i’s First Territorial Legislature, 1901 by Ronald Williams Jr.
- The Copied Hymns of John Young by Ralph Thomas Kam
- The Last Illness and Death of Hawai‘i’s King Kalākaua: A New Historical/Clinical Perspective by John F. McDemott MD, Zitta Cup Choy and Anthony P.S. Guerrero MD
- Buffalo Soldiers at Kīlauea, 1915–1917 by Martha Hoverson
- Remembering Lili‘uokalani: Coverage of the Death of the Last Queen of Hawai‘i by Hawai‘i’s English-Language Establishment Press and American Newspapers by Douglas v. Askman
- Genevieve Taggard: The Hawaiian Background to a Radical Poet by Anne Hammond
- Hawaiian Outrigger Canoes of the Bonin Archipelago by Scott Kramer and Hanae Kurihara Kramer
Published annually since 1967, the Journal presents original articles on the history of Hawai‘i, Polynesia, and the Pacific area as well as book reviews and an annual bibliography of publications related to Island history.
Individuals may receive the journal by joining the Hawaiian Historical Society.
The HJH welcomes scholarly submissions from all writers. See the Guidelines for Contributors.
You can also read more about this issue at the Hawaiian Historical Society’s website.