Thursday, May 12, 2016

Patricia Tsurumi Passes

The author of Colonial Education in Taiwan, which I used in my first Taiwan studies class. From H-Asia:
E. Patricia Tsurumi, 1938-2016

by Janet Goodwin
Posted on behalf of Christina Laffin.

I write to inform colleagues about the recent death of E. Patricia Tsurumi, historian and professor emerita at the University of Victoria in Canada. Known for her thoroughly-researched scholarship grounded in a strong sense of social justice, Paddy contributed to the history of women, education, colonialism, and labour.

Paddy Tsurumi is best known for her groundbreaking study of labourers, Factory Girls: Women in the Thread Mills of Meiji Japan (1990), which was awarded the Canada-Japan Book Prize from the Canada Council. Sally Hastings notes how this work established the field for further studies on Meiji women: “Tsurumi showed in no uncertain terms that in the Meiji period, the women who earned the foreign exchange that built industrial Japan by and large acted out of self-interest rather than blind patriotism and resisted their employers to the extent possible.”

Based on her Harvard dissertation, Paddy published Japanese Colonial Education in Taiwan, 1895-1945 (1977), and later edited The Other Japan: Postwar Realities (1987) for the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars while playing an active role in this organization. Her articles and book chapters span the fields of premodern to modern history and historiography, the history of education, and the social history of early feminist writers and historians.

Paddy practiced her scholarship with an infectious zeal and exuberance as she addressed gaps in Japan’s prewar, wartime, and postwar history; documented forgotten writers and scholars; and brought women’s contributions to light.

Unwavering in her support of junior scholars and the underdogs of academia, Paddy went above and beyond to connect students to resources or even provide housing in times of need. She was a champion of women scholars and those who did not follow the traditional trajectory for academic advancement, and thus encouraged a retiree with an interest in Japanese-Canadian history to carry out doctoral research, resulting in Midge Ayukawa’s Hiroshima Immigrants in Canada, 1891-1941 (also translated into Japanese), a work that would expand our understanding of Western Canadian immigrant history.

After retiring from the University of Victoria, Paddy moved to one of the Northern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Hornby Island, where she continued to conduct research on the early feminists Yamakawa Kikue (1890–1980) and Takamure Itsue (1894–1964) and to teach courses for residents.

Through her scholarship, Paddy encouraged us to seek out evidence of lived experiences and to go beyond simple narratives of victimhood and agency. She wrote of Meiji factory women, “If we really want to unravel their history we shall have to keep listening for their voices.”

An obituary and guest book hosted by the local newspaper can be found here:

Anyone wishing to convey messages to Paddy’s sister Muggs Sigurgeirson or daughter Maia Tsurumi should feel free to send them to me at

Christina Laffin

Christina Laffin クリスティーナ・ラフィン
Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies
Co-director, Centre for Japanese Research
Canada Research Chair in Premodern Japanese Literature and Culture tel. 604-822-4990
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