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The Weak Body of a Useless Woman

Matsuo Taseko and the Meiji Restoration

In 1862, fifty-one-year-old Matsuo Taseko left her old life behind by traveling to Kyoto, the old imperial capital. Peasant, poet, and local political activist, Taseko had come to Kyoto to support the nativist campaign to restore the Japanese emperor and expel Western "barbarians." Although she played a minor role in the events that led to the Meiji Restoration of 1868, her actions were nonetheless astonishing for a woman of her day. Honored as a hero even before her death, Taseko has since been adopted as a patron saint by rightist nationalists.

In telling Taseko’s story, Anne Walthall gives us not just the first full biography in English of a peasant woman of the Tokugawa period (1603-1868), but also fresh perspectives on the practices and intellectual concerns of rural entrepreneurs and their role in the Meiji Restoration. Writing about Taseko with a depth and complexity that has thus far been accorded only to men of that time, Walthall has uncovered a tale that will captivate anyone concerned with women’s lives and with Japan’s dramatic transition to modernity.

428 pages | 20 halftones, 2 maps, 5 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 1998

Women in Culture and Society

Asian Studies: East Asia

Biography and Letters

Gender and Sexuality

History: Asian History

Literature and Literary Criticism: Asian Languages

Women's Studies

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword by Catharine R. Stimpson
Pt. I: Life in the Ina Valley
1: The Making of a Poet
2: Taseko’s Political Heritage
3: Married Life
4: The Farm Family Economy
5: The Nativist Encounter
6: Nativist Texts and the Female Reader
Pt. II: Kyoto, 1862-1863
7: Autumn in Arashiyama
8: A Peasant Woman at the Emperor’s Court
9: Beheading Statues
10: Going Home
Pt. III: Taseko and the Meiji Restoration
11: On the Sidelines
12: Kyoto, 1868
13: Famous Friends
14: Political Intrigues and Conflicting Visions
Pt. IV: Taseko in Modern Japan
15: Taseko in Old Age
16: Remembering Taseko

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