Although Mary C. Leavitt challenged the convention of the Tokyo-Yokohama missionary circle in her written message to Japanese sisters, at the public meeting held 17 July 1886, she echoed American missionaries in addressing the evils of drinking and the need for reform in Japanese dress, housing, and marriage practices through a female interpreter. These issues would have been distinctly less controversial in American missionary circles.
The following transcript of speech was delivered at Koseikan Hall on the 17th last month. It was stenographed then by three men including Mojun Hayashi and Taiko Sanda. I support the point of the speech and publish it here. . . .
Having met you today, I would like to talk about something that is useful for women and is interesting to listen to. As you know I am representing a temperance union in America. It was twelve years ago that the temperance union was organized, and the union is thriving today. I hope it will be the same in your country, too. The reason for organizing the union was to abolish evils caused by strong drink, which was spreading to various countries. In America, people quit drinking and support our organization because once they stop drinking, they will live longer without suffering from the evils caused by drinking. Reading newspapers, I am unable to find any country where the government prohibited drinking, but I think that liquor drinking should be prohibited as well as opium smoking. In our country, it was once customary for government officers and upper-class people to drink a small amount of spirits when they socialized with friends. However, by now, these high-class people gradually stopped consuming it. Today it is not considered to be rude not serving liquor to guests, because it will shorten people's lives. For your country, I feel deep regret that your country now imports liquor from abroad and people started drinking foreign liquor. It will cause evils as it did in Europe and America.
[p. 2]The Japanese government had been promoting things beneficial to its people. If it also promote beautiful things concerning women, there would be further progress. I think there are many things for women to do in your country. I think if they are carried out by women, it will be more effective than being done by men. It is because a woman becomes a mother and raises her children by herself. She, before anybody else, starts speaking to her children when they reach one, two, or three years old. The mother's words, when well understood by children, will be influential. Whether the children grow into respectable persons or not all depends on how the mother raises them.
I wish I could travel all over your country and talk to women in your country. Please keep in mind that I give this speech to expand women's knowledge. Some of you who have gathered here today might hear something new. If you are one such person, please do not take it for granted that it is something good but give it some thought. I think it should be practiced only after you judge that it is a good idea. So please give thorough consideration, and convey your thoughts to your friends, maids, and even to those who earn their livings day by day so that they will think as you do.
Please do not use anything harmful like liquor about which I talked about. What I mean is tobacco. I have seen only one woman smoking in my country. I encountered so many people smoking tobacco in your country. I heard that not only lower-class women but also upper-class women smoke tobacco. I am not sure if it is true or not, but if it is, you need to stop it. Otherwise, it will hamper children's growth and make people smaller and weaker through the ages. Therefore, I recommend that mothers teach their children not to touch stimulant drinks and such things as tobacco. A few days ago, I read in the newspaper in your country that there was a case of death from smoking. A child smoked tobacco while hiding from the parents. I think it is desirable that your government prohibits people from smoking tobacco.
I would like to talk about harmful things other than liquor and tobacco. It is about not being pure.
[p. 3]Once you are married with one person, it is not pure or right to marry another person. It is also unacceptable that you do not mind exposing your body. This is especially true for women. Women should not show their skin not only in front of men but also in their everyday lives. A few days ago, I saw a person bathing in a tub in public. I have never come across such a scene. I request the ladies who are here today to speak not only to upper-class people but also to those who are day laborers. How poor they may be, they should not do such things. Also children should be disciplined on these matters from an early age. We keep customs that we acquire in our youth. When you teach your children, it is not recommended to threaten them that they will be scolded by a policeman if they take off their clothes as they wish. Rather, tell them that it is shameful to have one’s body seen even by one’s own brothers or sisters. Also, when you change their clothes, you mothers need to tell your children that changing one’s clothes should be done where people are not around rather than where people are around. Then, your children will believe that to be the correct way. As children grow older, they should be taught about purity. It is best to implant the idea that a thoughtful person should be pure.