Anonymous 作家名不明
Elementary Learning for Women
(Onna shōgaku 女小学)

Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), 1763
Woodblock-printed book; ink on paper
Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003

Alongside a similar work that preceded it, Greater Learning for Women (Onna daigaku, 1729), Elementary Learning for Women was widely published throughout the Edo period (1615-1868). In addition to its use as a primer on various works of Japanese literature, this text also promoted a strict Confucian code of behavior and exerted a powerful influence upon the formation of young women’s self-identity.

Readers were instructed about the various social roles that each woman, depending upon her family’s status, was destined to assume: a court noble (kuge), a member of a samurai’s family (buke), a merchant’s wife (tsuma), a rural commoner (min), a naive young girl (oboko-musume), a mistress (mekake), a prostitute (keisei), or a nun (ama). The final two roles are depicted on the right page, while the left page, on the subject of marriage, portrays two fathers greeting one another during a wedding ceremony, rolls of silk intended as dowry stacked on wooden trays in the background and the young groom quietly observing the ceremony from the side of the room.

View this book in its entirety on museum database (enabled through support by the Robert F. Lange Foundation)