Anarchist Women Of Imperial Japan: Lives, Subjectivities, Representations

Anarchist Studies - ISSN 2633-8270
Volume 24 Number 1

Anarchist Women Of Imperial Japan: Lives, Subjectivities, Representations
Helene Bowen Raddeker pages -


This essay is focused on Kanno Suga (1881–1911), Ito^ Noe (1895–1923) and Kaneko Fumiko (1903–1926), women who were closely associated with Japan’s pre-war anarchist movement. This was the case even with Fumiko who defined her political stance as ‘nihilistic egoism’, yet was an admirer of the leading anarcho-syndicalist in Taisho^ (1912– 26) Japan, O^sugi Sakae, and numbered anarchists amongst her political intimates. Her nihilism/egoism was, in any case, strongly inspired by individualistic anarchism.

Because of their connection with anarchism, it may come as no surprise that all three women died young and either in prison or in the hands of state forces. Yet it is unlikely that any one of them would have met such an end if not for her determi- nation to be treated as the equal of male partner who occupied a leading position in the movement. Suga was the one woman executed for high treason in the Meiji High Treason Case of 1910–1911, along with the leader of the Meiji anarchists, her lover Ko^toku Shu^sui, and ten other male comrades. At the end of a similar criminal case in 1926, Fumiko took her own life in her prison cell. This was after the death sentence for high treason meted out to herself and her Korean partner, Pak Yeol, had been commuted to life imprisonment. Noe, on the other hand, had already been murdered by this time by military police together with her partner, O^sugi, just after the Great Kanto^ Earthquake of 1 September 1923.

This essay contrasts contemporary and later representations of the three women with the meanings they themselves attached to their lives and subjectivities. It highlights the irony involved in gendering Kanno Suga, Ito^ Noe or Kaneko Fumiko in stereotypically feminine terms, when the subjects themselves were critical of the gender norms of the time – not only in mainstream society but also within Japan’s libertarian movement. 

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To cite this article
Helene Bowen Raddeker (2016) Anarchist Women Of Imperial Japan: Lives, Subjectivities, Representations, Anarchist Studies, 24(1), -

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