Paper $17.00 ISBN: 9780226132518 Published April 2014
E-book $17.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226132655 Published April 2014

The Only Woman in the Room

A Memoir of Japan, Human Rights, and the Arts

Beate Sirota Gordon

Beate Sirota Gordon

With a new Foreword by John W. Dower, a new Afterword by Nicole A. Gordon, and an Elegy by Geoffrey Paul Gordon
176 pages | 47 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 1997, 2014
Paper $17.00 ISBN: 9780226132518 Published April 2014
E-book $17.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226132655 Published April 2014
In 1946, at age twenty-two, Beate Sirota Gordon helped to draft the new postwar Japanese Constitution. The Only Woman in the Room chronicles how a daughter of Russian Jews became the youngest woman to aid in the rushed, secret drafting of a constitution; how she almost single-handedly ensured that it would establish the rights of Japanese women; and how, as a fluent speaker of Japanese and the only woman in the room, she assisted the American negotiators as they worked to persuade the Japanese to accept the new charter.

Sirota was born in Vienna, but in 1929 her family moved to Japan so that her father, a noted pianist, could teach, and she grew up speaking German, English, and Japanese. Russian, French, Italian, Latin, and Hebrew followed, and at fifteen Sirota was sent to complete her education at Mills College in California. The formal declaration of World War II cut Gordon off from her parents, and she supported herself by working for a CBS listening post in San Francisco that would eventually become part of the FCC. Translating was one of Sirota’s many talents, and when the war ended, she was sent to Japan as a language expert to help the American occupation forces. When General MacArthur suddenly created a team that included Sirota to draft the new Japanese Constitution, he gave them just eight days to accomplish the task. Colonel Roest said to Beate Sirota, “You’re a woman, why don’t you write the women’s rights section?”; and she seized the opportunity to write into law guarantees of equality unparalleled in the US Constitution to this day.

But this was only one episode in an extraordinary life, and when Gordon died in December 2012, words of grief and praise poured from artists, humanitarians, and thinkers the world over. Illustrated with forty-seven photographs, The Only Woman in the Room captures two cultures at a critical moment in history and recounts, after a fifty-year silence, a life lived with purpose and courage. This edition contains a new afterword by Nicole A. Gordon and an elegy by Geoffrey Paul Gordon.
Gloria Steinem
“Gordon’s personal story will enlighten all who question the importance of women’s presence in the corridors of power.”
Dick Cavett
“A warm, colorful, haunting, and thoroughly entertaining memoir of an enviably rich and adventure-filled life. What a story!”
Cristine Russell | The Atlantic
“Gordon’s death has unearthed her legacy promoting gender equality for all women. Let’s hope it stays in the light.”
Publishers Weekly
“Quietly feminist, freshly illuminating.”
Yoko Ono
“. . . A woman with the courage to match her convictions.”
Yehudi Menuhin
“A prime example of truth being stranger and at the same time more coherent than fiction. . . . Spellbinding.”
Hanae Mori
“Brimming with wisdom, sophistication and energy.”
YoYo Ma
“The story of a remarkable life. . . . Fascinating.”
Linda Isako Angst | The Journal of Asian Studies
“Gordon provides an evocative portrait, carefully and tenderly recording the evanescent world of her parents in privileged, prewar, expatriate Tokyo society on the eve of its demise as well as giving us a glimpse of the newly emerging and hopeful order of democratic, postwar Japan.”
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