Kita Kusunose’s 183rd Birthday – “It is strange that despite paying taxes, I do not have the right to vote because I am a woman,” wrote Kita Kusunose in her famous 1878 letter to Japanese officials. “If I don’t have the right to vote then I won’t pay my taxes.” Today’s Doodle celebrates the birth of a self-described “common woman” who’s now fondly remembered as Minken Baasan, “the people’s rights granny.”
Born in Kōchi Prefecture on the island of Shikoku on this day in 1836, Kita married at age 21 and took over as the head of her household after her husband’s passing. Denied the right to vote in local elections just because she was a woman, she refused to pay her property tax with the belief that duty and rights should coexist, and sent a letter to the prefectural governor explaining her decision. As the first public petition written by a Japanese woman, Kita’s letter caused quite a stir. When her argument was dismissed by local authorities she took her case to Japan’s national ministry, after which it was reprinted in newspapers.
During the Meiji Era (1868 to 1912), Japanese society was undergoing a period of great transition under Emperor Mutsuhito. Kita’s letter sparked a national debate about women’s rights that led to changes in voting laws for parts of her home prefecture, allowing some women to vote for the first time in 1880. Although the rights were denied four years later, Kita is remembered as a pioneer for women’s suffrage, which was finally extended nationwide in Japan in 1946.
Kita was also an advocate for education and is honored at the Kochi Liberty and Peoples’ Rights Museum, which opened in her hometown in 1990.
Early concepts by artist Nate Swinehart
You can find more about Kita Kusunose’s 183rd Birthday on the official Google Doodle Page