Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Marcia A. Yonemoto

Second Advisor

Timothy B. Weston

Third Advisor

Miriam L. Kingsberg


This thesis aims to further our understanding of norms and education for women in early modern Japan by investigating exemplary women and the practice of reading and writing by women discussed in joshiyo orai, published primers written for women in the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). I argue that social expectations for women constantly changed in Tokugawa Japan due to multiple social forces such as the rise of commercialism, increased literacy, and the nuclearization of peasant families. As a result, some acts that were considered unconventional in the early years came to be justified in the later years as acts that conformed to sanctioned values of chastity, filial piety, and moral cultivation. I also demonstrate that conforming to those social norms enabled some women to be active outside the home and household and, in some cases, ironically enabled them to deviate from the social norms of their time.