Document 17: Yoshiharu Iwamoto, "Joshi no enzetsu [Female Public Speech]," Jogaku zasshi 63 (7 May 1887): 41-43. Translated by Rumi Yasutake.


   Although Yoshiharu Iwamoto assisted women in breaking their silence by sponsoring a public meeting on 2 May 1887, he invited criticism by restricting the audience to women. In the following editorial in Jogaku zasshi, he responded to the criticism. While he argued against those who prohibited women's public speaking based on Paul's injunction, he insisted that Japanese women should not rashly break the Western convention restricting women from speaking to mixed audiences. Unwilling to totally disregard the conventions of the Tokyo-Yokohama missionary circle, Iwamoto respected American missionaries' concerns about women speaking to gender-mixed audiences.

Japanese-language original

[p. 41]

   The second public speech meeting sponsored for Woman's Learning was held at Kosei Hall in Kobiki-cho on May 2nd. Since it was advertised as a meeting for women only, more than one thousand people who arrived to wait for the opening of the hall were all women. The first public meeting sponsored by our company also limited its audience to women, and the same arrangement was made this time. There seemed to be some, who repeatedly blamed us for the arrangement that they saw as unusual and demandingly asked us why we did not allow men to enter the Hall. There is no need to answer these questions one by one, and it was more than enough to answer those questions once we made a statement that we followed our beliefs and did what seemed most convenient. However, since there are some who draw an imprudent conclusion on the important matter of women's speech only from this incident, I need to explain my real reasons.

   It is said that women in the United States and Europe do not like to speak in public because there are statements that reproach women from doing so in the New Testament that is revered in Christianity. So, some assumed that the second public meeting sponsored by our company, concerned with such a condition, allowed only ladies to listen to ladies' speeches and barred men from the audience. There are even some who made such extreme claims that we admit that women's public speeches go against women's way. However, this is a serious misunderstanding and can be an un-negligible obstacle for the extension of women's rights. Thus, I cannot help but write on this issue. I thought about the issue and realized that "the statements in the New Testament" must be the following passage. It is a part of the first letter sent to the Corinthians from Apostle Paul.

Let your women be silent in the churches, for it is not permitted for them to speak, but to be in subjection, even as the Law also says. But if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home--for it is a shame for women to speak in church.

   What this passage actually means has been debated even in countries where Christianity is commonly believed. Some argue that women should not speak a word in the churches by interpreting the passage literally. Others argue that this should not be applied to all women in general since it was a warning directed to people in one local region. For many years from the ancient days, the former interpretation had been dominant,

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and women were not allowed to speak in the churches and were instructed to obey blindly what was called the law and to be subjugated in any matters. Thus, although the passage does not make any clear statement about women's speech in public, it was assumed that it would harm women's virtue, and thus, women were prohibited from trying [to speak]. This is how secular people ended up interpreting the passage, and public opinion in many Christian countries gradually made women's keeping silence a custom and maintained it until the modern day. However, the recent expansion in women's rights brought various arguments proving that the equal rights between men and women stand to reason. It is said that enlightened people came to question the meaning of the above mentioned passage, argued that what many people had upheld actually countered the true teachings of the religion, and clarified the meaning of this passage after close examination and reference.

   There are two volumes of the scriptures in Christianity. The first is called the Old Testament, and the second is called the New Testament. The two testaments were compiled by several tens of people over one thousand and several hundred years. However, there is not even a hair of contradiction in the meanings all the way through, and all what had been prophesied at the beginning actually came into reality later. This is what makes the Scriptures different from other ordinary documents, and this is why so many followers of Christianity revere them. However, the conventional interpretation of the passage of Paul's teachings to women contradicts clear statements that appear in other parts of the Old and New Testaments, which is not what we should expect from the Scriptures.

   In Joel 2: 28-[29], the Lord stated that "And afterward I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, . . . And also I will pour out My Spirit on the menservants and on the maidservants in those days." This prophesy was somewhat realized during the time of the New Testament. First, Acts 21: 9 writes that Philip, the evangelist had "four virgin daughters who prophesied. . . " So women were already bestowed with the power to prophesy equally with men. Then, why weren't women bestowed with the power to preach in public? If women had already received this power, it is quite difficult, when you give consideration to the conditions of those days, to imagine that women kept silence in the churches. Especially there are passages on "Anna, a prophetess" in Luke 2:36-38; ". . . she never left the Temple, serving with fastings and prayers night and day. . . . And coming up at the same time she gave praise to the Lord and spoke about Him to all those waiting for redemption at Jerusalem." Now we really think that the teaching that prohibits women from speaking in churches is unusual. Furthermore, Apostle Paul, who left the above-mentioned passages, stated, according to Romans 16:1[-2], "And I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the Cen-chre-an church,

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that you may receive her in the Lord[, as saints should and you may help her in whatever matter she may need you]." In Romans 16:3 and in Timothy II 4:19, he wrote to "greet Priscilla and her husband Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus." These two passages have already clearly justified women in speaking the ways in and outside of churches. So if we interpret Paul's injunctions as the conventional custom did, we already contradict the few passages that we referred to. Since such a discrepancy between the beginning and ending parts of statements made by Paul himself should not happen in the Scriptures, we recognize that Paul's injunction of women's keeping silence is not made for general situations.

   If this is the real meaning of Paul's injunction made in his letter to the Corinthians, it can not be used as the reason for prohibiting women's speech in public. Then, if you ask why women in Europe and America disdain from trying to speak out by themselves and usually speak only to women, the answer cannot be anything else but that it has become a kind of manner or custom influencing women's society for more than several hundred years. Those who insist that the injunction in the Scriptures prohibits women's speech, should now admit that their interpretation is no longer acceptable. Then, why did we limit the audience to women when we held public meetings sponsored by Jogaku Zasshi? Why did we ask women to preside at the meetings while we [men], who took charge of administering the meetings, retreated to the back seats? It is only because of our concern to this kind of manners. I strongly believe that it is also extremely important for my sisters in Japan to follow this kind of manners at the time when they desire to obtain their power peacefully. I think that it is appropriate for Japanese women today to follow rather than to rashly break the customs of European and American civilizations. I would be very happy if you could understand my humble intention.

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