24 February 2004

The Legal Status of the Japanese Wife, 1915

According to "The New Japanese Civil Code" by Professor N. Hozumi, the present Civil Code proceeds upon the equality of the sexes, and makes no distinction between men and women in their enjoyment of private life so long as a woman remains single. She may become the head of a house and exercise authority as such. She may exercise parental authority over her child if her husband is dead. She may adopt children either alone, when she is single or a widow, or in conjuction with her husband when married. She may make any contract or acquire or dispose of any property in her own name, provided she remains single.

When she marries, however, she enters the class technically called "incapacitated persons" treated of in Section 2 or Chapter I of the Civil Code. Under this section are four classes--minors, incompetent persons, quasi-incompetent persons and wives, or more explicitly, as it is explained under the "meaning of capacity," "such persons as minors, wives, lunatics, and spendthrifts do not possess complete capacity." A touch of nature makes the whole world kin! The next paragraph is still more illuminating.

Under the heading "Reasons for protecting incompetent persons," we find, "minors are protected because of the insufficient development of their intelligence; incapacitated persons are protected because they are, like lunatics and idiots, intellectually deformed; and quasi-incompetent persons are protected because they are either physically deformed or intellectually imperfect, like the blind, the deaf, the dumb, and spendthrifts; while wives being bound to follow their husbands, the rights of the latter are protected in order to maintain the peace of the household."
SOURCE: "The Legal Status of the Japanese Wife," by A. Caroline Macdonald, in The Christian Movement in the Japanese Empire, including Korea and Formosa, a Year Book for 1915 (Conference of Federated Missions, Japan, 1915), pp. 324-325.

In sharp contrast are the presuffrage wives of the Southern Baptist Convention missionaries listed on p. 611 of the same work, all of whom appear either to be named Wanda, Wendy, Wilhemina, Wilma, Winifred, and the like--or else not to be worth naming:

Bouldin, Rev. G. W. & W., Tokyo
Clarke, Rev. W. H. & W., (A)
Dozier, Rev. C. K. & W., Fukuoka
Medling, Rev. P. P. & W., (A)
Mills, Mr. E. O. & W., Fukuoka
Ray, Rev. J. F. & W., Shimonoseki
Rowe, Rev. J. H. & W., Nagasaki
Walne, Rev. E. N., D.D. & W., Tokyo
Willingham, Rev. C. T. & W., Kokura

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