Beate Sirota Gordon
Through diplomacy and ingenuity, twenty-two-year-old Beate Sirota Gordon wrote unprecedented rights for women into Japan’s post-war constitution. Because Gordon’s father, Leo Sirota, served as professor of music at the Imperial Academy in Tokyo, Gordon was raised in Japan until she left in 1939 to attend Mills College in California at age sixteen. Cut off from news of her family after Pearl Harbor, Gordon worked for the Office of War Information as a translator and returned to Japan after the war to search for her family. She was assigned to the Political Affairs staff as a translator, helping negotiate the Japanese constitution in 1946 and drafting language for women’s equal rights. She returned to America with her parents and married Lieutenant Joseph Gordon in 1948, then became Director of Student Programs for New York’s Japan Society in 1954. There she arranged exhibits and counseled Japanese students studying abroad, including the young Yoko Ono. She was promoted to Director of Performing Arts in 1958. In 1970 she became Director of Performing Arts for the Asia Society, travelling across the Far East in search of artists and performers she could invite to New York to inspire and educate Americans. She retired in 1991.