The Story Behind the Beauty: Geisha, New Women, and Social Reformers


Wed. Sep. 22nd 4:00 PM - Wed. Sep. 22nd 5:00 PM
Virtual event.

Jan Bardsley, Professor Emerita, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, UNC Chapel Hill.

Prints popular at home and abroad in the 1910s depicted Japanese women in beauty prints as tranquil. Behind the scenes, however, controversies brewed over the role women should play in modern life. Debates over the “Woman Question” brought differences among women’s groups to the fore, sowing divisions and unusual alliances. Looking at conflict among elite geisha, literary New Women, reformers of the Japan Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and even visiting women from the United States tells the contentious story behind the Japanese beauty in 1910s prints. Jan Bardsley’s most recent book is titled Maiko Masquerade: Crafting Geisha Girlhood in Japan (UC Press, 2021).

Image: Jan Bardsley