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Global Dialogue: Beate Sirota Gordon's Legacy for Women's Rights in Japan

  • 01/27/2021
  • 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM


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Global Dialogue Program

Beate Sirota Gordon's Legacy for Women's Rights in Japan

Presented by Beate Gordon’s daughter

Nicole A. Gordon

10:30 - 10:35 a.m (Central Time): Greetings and introduction of speaker

10:35 - 11:15 a.m: Presentation by Nicole Gordon (40 minutes)

11:15 - 11:30 a.m: Q&A by participants and speaker; concluding remarks

Note: Prior to this live program, you are invited to get insight into this amazing woman through reading her book or Wikipedia biography, or hearing her speak on YouTube. Links are provided below:

Book: The Only Woman in the Room (1997, University of Chicago Press)

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beate_Sirota_Gordon

YouTube (Beate Gordon’s Mills College 2011 commencement address):


YouTube (Beate Gordon’s talk on The Only Woman in the Room):


Beate Sirota Gordon played a seminal role in promoting women’s rights in Japan. She was born in Vienna, Austria on 25 October 1923. At the age of six she moved to Japan with her parents, after her father, Leo Sirota, a world-famous concert pianist, was invited to become a professor at the Imperial Academy of Music – now the Tokyo University of the Arts.

Mrs. Gordon spent ten years as a student in Japan and became fluent in Japanese. In February, 1946, after the conclusion of World War II, Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, ordered the Constitutional Assembly to draft a new constitution for occupied Japan. Beate Sirota, at age 22, was assigned to the subcommittee dedicated to writing the section on civil rights. As she was one of only two women in the larger group, Sirota played an important role in writing the clause regarding women’s legal equality with men in Japan, including Articles 14 and 24 concerning Equal Rights and Women's Civil Rights. On March 4, 1946, as an interpreter on MacArthur's staff, she was the only woman present at the negotiation session that determined the articles to be included in the new constitution of Japan.

Mrs. Gordon's book, The Only Woman in the Room: A Memoir of Japan, Human Rights, and the Arts is a vivid and very personal account of one woman’s life in Europe, prewar Japan, and the United States. Her intimate description of helping to write, in less than a week, the new constitution’s section regarding women’s rights is an astonishing record of history.

Nicole A. Gordon is Faculty Director of the CUNY Baruch College Executive M.P.A. program and Distinguished Lecturer of Public Affairs. She was the founding Executive Director of New York City’s Campaign Finance Board, building this reform agency into an internationally recognized model. After 18 years there, she was the Vice President of the JEHT Foundation, focusing on criminal, juvenile, and international justice and elections. Ms. Gordon has served as Counsel to the Chairman of the NY State Commission on Government Integrity and as an Assistant Corporation Counsel in the NYC Law Department. She is a past president of the Council on Governmental Ethics. Ms. Gordon holds an A. B. degree from Barnard College and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.

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