OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Barbara Molony

Portrait of Barbara Molony

Past president of the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association, past co-president of the Coordinating Council for Women in History, current co-president of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, and the Walter E. Schmidt, S.J., Professor of History at Santa Clara University, Barbara Molony has lectured extensively in North America and overseas. Her recent works include the coauthored or coedited volumes: Engendering Transnational Transgressions: From the Intimate to the Global (2020), Women's Activism and "Second Wave" Feminism: Transnational Histories (2017), Asia's New Mothers: Crafting Gender Roles and Childcare Networks in East and Southeast Asian Societies (2008), and Gendering Modern Japanese History (2005) as well as numerous articles on Japanese women's suffrage, the politics of dress, and transnational feminist movements. She is a coauthor of the textbooks Gender in Modern East Asia (2016), Civilizations Past and Present (2007), and Modern East Asia: An Integrated History (2012), and is completing a biography of Japan's leading suffragist, Ichikawa Fusae.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

Japanese suffragists were hailed as heroes in the struggle for women's rights until the late 20th century, when discussions of "comfort women" dominated feminist discourse. What, if anything, did wartime feminists know about "comfort women," and why did they not speak out against military sexual abuse? Were they "complicit"?
In Japan, dress--including clothing, hairstyles, and posture--has signified modernity, gender, class, and power since the late 19th century. Linked to all of these was imperialism. What did clothing and hairstyles often marked as "masculine" or "feminine," or Western or Japanese indicate about the wearer, whether at home or in the public sector, in Japan or abroad (in the West or in Asia)?
Feminist transnationalism in northeast Asia supported suffragist movements in Japan and China. Feminists' involvement in global activism gave them a political voice when they did not yet have one in their own countries.
Japan is one of the richest countries in the world, and gender equality is stipulated in the country's constitution, yet the status of women in the workplace and in politics is one of the lowest in the developed world. What social factors contribute to that?