Tsuda, Umeko

Umeko Tsuda (1864-1929) founded Tsuda College (previously known as, Joshi Eigaku Juku and Tsuda Eigaku Juku), a Japanese women's college that introduced western-style education. Umeko's philanthropic activities included fundraising for Tsuda College and to establish the "American Scholarship for Japanese Women,"� a fund that allowed many women (later, Japan's educational and political leaders) to study in the U. S. Umeko was the first Japanese woman to study in the U. S. at her government's expense, living with Charles and Adeline Lanman, and later attending Bryn Mawr College.

Biographical Highlights

Umeko Tsuda (1864-1929) founded Tsuda College, one of the oldest women's colleges in Japan. She was the first Japanese woman to study in the United States at the Japanese government's expense, and her experience in the United States enabled her to be a pioneer of women's higher education in Japan. She is well known as a great educator; additionally, she is one of the few Japanese philanthropists of her era to focus on enlightening women and improving their status through education.

Historic Roots

Ume (later Umeko) Tsuda was born in 1864 in Tokyo as the second daughter of Sen Tsuda and Hatsuko Tsuda. She was born during a transitional period in Japan's history, as the country moved from the feudal government of the Edo era (1603-1867) to that of the Meiji era (1868-1912). Ume was sent to the United States by the Meiji government in 1871, as one of five girls accompanied by ambassador Tomomi Iwakura. Ume, the youngest, was only seven years old. One purpose of the Iwakura mission was to cultivate girls in Western ways; they were to become models of "ideal womanhood" and thus help to usher in a new and modernized Japanese nation. Ume's father had worked as an interpreter for treaty negotiations in 1867, when he accompanied a delegation to the United States. He was deeply impressed with the technology and culture of the United States, and this experience motivated him to send his daughter to America four years later.

Tsuda stayed in Washington, D.C., with Charles Lanman (secretary of Japanese legation). Charles and his wife Adeline had no children, so they welcomed her and treated her like their own child. Tsuda's first American school was the Georgetown Collegiate Institute, which catered to middle-class families. She learned English very quickly. After graduating from this school she entered the Archer Institute, where many of the students were daughters of politicians and local bureaucrats. She excelled in all kinds of subjects, including language, math, science, and music. About one year after arriving at the Lanmans, Tsuda spontaneously asked to be baptized. The Lanmans were Episcopalians, but they decided that if she wanted to be a Christian, she should attend the Old Swedes Church, which was nonsectarian.

Tsuda spent ten years with the Lanmans, returning to Japan in 1882, when she was nineteen years old. Her time in the United States fostered her intelligence and independence, but she had almost completely forgotten Japanese, which created initial (but temporary) difficulties in communicating with her family. What anguished her most seriously was the position of women in Japanese society. Even Tsuda's father Sen, who was relatively westernized, still clung to traditional patriarchal authoritarianism. Having seen American women's liberated position and their independence, Umeko was shocked by Japanese women's dependence. Though the Meiji government had promoted girls' education during the decade she was in the United States, the curricula did not emphasize the development of women's intelligence and personality, but rather trained women to support their husbands and children obediently. In 1885, Tsuda began to teach English at Peeresses' School, where most of the students were from former samurai-class families. However, she was not satisfied with the school policy, which stated that education was intended to polish girls as ladies and train them to be obedient wives and good mothers.

Not satisfied with her life in Japan, she returned to the United States again and studied biology for three years at Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia. Though Umeko once thought of remaining in the United States and continuing with her research, she was still concerned about Japanese women's education. Her experience with American higher education strengthened her aspiration to contribute to Japanese women's education and social status. Tsuda decided she would devote her life to Japanese women's higher education.

One of her most significant philanthropic activities was to found a scholarship for Japanese women. During her second stay in the United States, Tsuda decided that other Japanese women should have the opportunity to study there as well; at that time, the only higher education institute for women in Japan was Tokyo Women's Normal School. Tsuda believed that higher education was indispensable in improving women's status, and that women trained in the United States would make competent educational leaders in Japan. She spent her last year in the United States making public speeches about Japanese women's education and raising $8,000 in scholarship funds. The fund, named the "American Scholarship for Japanese Women," strengthened connections between Japan and the United States in higher education for women. Many women have studied in the United States because of this scholarship fund and have, indeed, later become educational and political leaders.

After returning to Japan, Ume Tsud a again taught at Peeresses' School, as well as at Normal School; her salary was 800 yen, and her post was the highest available to women of her era. In addition to teaching, she published several theses and made public speeches about the status of Japanese women. At this time, girls' education was expanding due to a booming economy after the Sino-Japanese War and the 1889 Girl's Higher Education Law, which required each prefecture to establish at least one public middle school for girls. However, these schools still emphasized women's domestic roles. Ume thought that existing schools were not able to provide girls with an education of the same quality as that available at boys' schools. In 1900, she resigned from the prestigious Peeresses' School and opened Joshi Eigaku Juku (The Women's Institute for English Studies). She introduced western-style education, which included class discussion about current topics, and taught liberal arts subjects. She also emphasized building students' personalities and encouraging student creativity.

The school faced a chronic funding shortfall, and Tsuda spent her time fundraising, teaching at other schools, and tutoring daughters of her friends in order to support herself and the school. Due to her efforts and enthusiastic teaching, in 1903 the school was approved as a vocational school by the Ministry of Education and, in 1905, graduates of the school were no longer required to take the government examination in order to teach. Gradually the school became prosperous and its graduates entered society as professional women.

However, Umeko Tsuda's busy life gradually undermined her health, and she suffered a stroke. After a long illness, Tsuda died in 1929 when she was 66 years old. Joshi Eigaku Juku changed its name to Tsuda Eigaku Juku in 1933 and, after World War II, was known as Tsuda College. It is still one of the most prestigious women's institutes of higher education in Japan.


The collapse of Tokugawa Bakufu (the feudal period) and the beginning of the Meiji Restoration (1867) brought about Japan's material modernization. People tried to model themselves after those in Western countries and discarded many old-fashioned practices. However, class hierarchy and gender inequality was still deeply rooted in people's consciousness. Women's capabilities were by no means recognized in the feudalistic family system or Confucian thought; instead, women w ere restricted in households and treated as men's possessions. Ume's return to Japan after her stay in the United States made the gap between women's status in Japan and the United States clear to her, and made her realize that Japanese women took for granted that they were inferior. While it may have been easier for her to pursue a career as a biologist at Bryn Mawr, she chose instead a more difficult path: to improve Japanese women's status. She was proud of being Japanese and strongly desired women's happiness; her hard work and sacrifice made her a pioneer of higher education for Japanese women.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Although Tsuda strongly desired social reform for women, she did not organize any women's groups or advocate a broad feminist social movement. All of her activities-such as fundraising, teaching, and establishing her own school-were based on her philosophy that education focused on developing individual intelligence and personality which could create independent women. Through education and Christianity, she made women aware of the concept of personal identity, and her efforts created a foundation for later women's movements.

Umeko's dream was not realized by her efforts alone. Her activities were supported by many women, such as her American mother, American friends at Bryn Mawr, and Japanese friends of the Iwakura Mission. The friendship and the philanthropic network developed by these women helped Ume both mentally and financially and helped to bridge the distance between American and Japanese women. These networks and Tsuda's commitment to the cause, created new opportunities for countless women in Japanese society.

Key Related Ideas

From the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, as the demand for women's education in Japan increased; in addition, several women's social reform movements burgeoned. The Kyofukai (Tokyo Women's Reform Society) was one of these. It began as a temperance society modeled on the U.S. Women's Christian Temperance Union. Its activities expanded into political issues, especially regarding government policies on prostitution, monogamy, marriage laws, and the family system. Though she never participated in these organizations, she encouraged their activities.

However, Tsuda never agreed with the woman suffrage movement . She explained that Japanese women were not well prepared to get involved in political issues until they became mature enough to vote. She also criticized a young woman's movement developed by the Seitosha (Bluestocking Society) . It challenged the authority of men, family, teachers, and society. The society also expressed women's desire for love and sexuality through a literary journal. Ume denounced their activities as immoral and lowbrow. Some members of the Seitosha were, in fact, graduates of Ume's school. Their way of expression was not pleasant to Ume, nevertheless it realized her vision of women speaking and acting for themselves.

Important People Related to the Topic

Alice Bacon : One of Tsuda's friends in the United States. Bacon was a host sister of Sutematsu Yamakawa, one of the five girls who were sent to the United States as part of the Iwakura Mission. When Umeko was teaching at Peeresses' School, the principal told her that he wanted to hire an American teacher. She recommended Alice and asked her to leave her teaching position in Virginia. For two years, Alice made an effort to contribute to women's education in Japan. When Tsuda opened her own school, Alice taught at the school without payment.

Anna Hartshorne : Tsuda's best friend throughout her life. She and Anna had been friends since Tsuda studied at Bryn Mawr College. Hartshorne took Alice Bacon's position at Umeko's school in Japan after Bacon returned to the United States. Like Bacon, Hartshorne donated her teaching time. She also helped Tsuda manage the school, donating her own funds and fundraising for the school across the United States for three years. Hartshorne devoted her life to helping Tsuda and contributed to women's education in Japan.

Charles and Adeline Lanman : Ume's host parents in Georgetown from 1871 to 1882. Charles, the grandson of Senator James Lanman of Connecticut, was born in 1819. He had a variety of careers, working at an accounting office in New York City, as a journalist in Ohio, and as a librarian for the federal government. He also served as a secretary to Daniel Webster and to the Japanese legation. His diverse talents and friendship with many prominent writers of the day greatly influenced Tsuda's growth. His wife Adeline was a daughter of Francis Dodge, one of the most successful businessmen in Georgetown. Adeline and Tsuda kept in touch with each other after Umeko returned to Japan until three years before Adeline's death in 1914. Adeline always supported Tsuda and gave advice as her American mother.

Related Nonprofit Organizations

The Philadelphia Permanent Committee for Tsuda College
This committee was organized in 1900 by Alice Bacon. Before Bacon left the United States to help Ume in Japan, she gathered Tsuda's friends and her own in Philadelphia to discuss Tsuda's plan to open a school. The committee pledged to make an annual donation to Umeko's school. Leading members of the committee included Anna Hartshorne and M. Carey Thomas, the Dean of Bryn Mawr College.

Tokyo Young Women's Christian Association
This branch of the World YWCA was established in Tokyo in 1905. Umeko Tsuda was elected as its first chair. During YWCA activities, Tsuda made many public speeches about Japanese women's education and her perspective on Christianity both inside and outside Japan.

Related Web Sites

Bryn Mawr College Web site introduces the autobiography of Umeko Tsuda and the relationship between Bryn Mawr and Tsuda college that began in 1889, when Umeko entered Bryn Mawr, at http://www.brynmawr.edu/Alumnae/bulletin/tsuda.htm .

Tsuda College Web site , at http://www.tsuda.ac.jp/kouhou/guide/tsuda-hand/index-e.html , provides information on the history of the college, its current programs, and Umeko Tsuda in both Japanese and English.

Bibliography and Internet Sources

Bryn Mawr College. " BMC Honors Tsuda Centennial." Bryn Mawr College. http://www. brynmawr.edu/Alumnae/bulletin/tsuda.htm .

Kadota, Fusako. "Tsuda Umeko." In Jinbutsu Nihon no Joseisi, edited by Fumiko Enchi, 10-52. Kyouiku bungaku eno reimei. Vol. 12. Tokyo: Shueisha, 1973.

Kanji, Nishio. Atarasii Rekisi Kyokasho. Tokyo: Fusosha, 2001. ISBN: 4594031552.

Rose, Barbara. Tsuda Umeko and Women's Education in Japan. New York: Yale University Press, 1992. ISBN: 0300051778.

Takako, Yamazaki. Tsuda Umeko . Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 1972.

Tsuda College. "Introduction to Tsuda College." Tsuda College. https://www.tsuda.ac.jp/en/about/index.html .

Yoshiko, Furuki. The White Plum: A Biography of Ume Tsuda. New York: Weatherhill, 1991. ISBN: 0834802430.

oshiko, Furuki, et al. The Attic Letters: Ume Tsuda's Correspondence to Her American Mother. New York: Weatherhill, 1991. ISBN: 0834802449.

This paper was developed by a student taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at Indiana University at Bloomington. It is offered by Learning To Give and Indiana University at Bloomington.