Mediating New Versions of Womanhood in Asia, 1880s–1950s

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Mediating New Versions of Womanhood in Asia, 1880s–1950s
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Yoshiko Nakano, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (organizer, presenter, chair)
Midori Yamaguchi, Daito Bunka University, Japan (presenter)
Yo Nonaka, Keio University, Japan (presenter)
Emi Goto, University of Tokyo, Japan (discussant)


This panel explores the allure and consumption of new versions of womanhood that developed under the official and unofficial empires of Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, foreign women traveled to Asia as missionaries, diplomatic wives, and vocational instructors, and presented new ideas of womanhood through the promulgation of their own religious beliefs, lifestyle, foodways, fashion and professional norms. In turn, they triggered new desires and aspirations among women in Asia. The panelists will discuss the role played by expatriate women in mediating how these ideas were expressed, experienced, and negotiated in three separate cultural interfaces. Midori Yamaguchi considers the published letters of late nineteenth-century Anglican women missionaries and discusses what they reveal about Asian women's fascination with English fashion, and how the allure of a European lifestyle informed the religious society's strategy for its Asian missions. Yo Nonaka turns her attention to the Dutch East Indies and examines the first women’s magazine in the Melayu language. Established in 1908, the publication introduced elements of the Dutch way of life to members of the local elite and Eurasian women. In postwar Japan, flight attendants were looked up to as icons of modernity. Yoshiko Nakano discusses the American instructor who trained Japan Airlines’ "stewardesses" for their first international flight and the impact she had on their look and service expectations. In presenting these cultural interfaces alongside each other, we hope to contribute to a global history of gender and emotions.