Girls’ Club

B7F24-Women Clubs1 B7F24-Women Clubs2 B7F24-Women Clubs3 B7F24-Women Clubs4 B7F24-Women Clubs5 B7F24-Women Clubs6 B7F24-Women Clubs7

 

Attitudes of Women: Mothers

Jihwan Oh

           The theme of our group project is “Attitudes of Women in internment camps.” Like a usual person in a society, each interned person was in a different social group, where he or she spent most of the time with people who shared a similar background or purpose. The social group that I would like to focus on is the Poston Women’s club, or Mother’s Club. As the name of the club indicates, the majority of group members were mothers who had children attending schools, and at the same time, were responsible to act as mothers of the society. The condition of the camp was harsh, as indicated in Matsumoto[1]: “Because of the discomfort, noise, and lack of privacy, which “made a single symphony of yours and your neighbors’ loves, hates, and joys,”’13 the barracks often became merely a place to “hang your hat” and sleep.” The mothers tried to adjust themselves to the situation and find their way of lives. The purpose of Mother’s Club was “to serve people in their neighbor, and to provide entertainment, social contests.”[2] In improving the condition of the camps, communication with the camp authority was inevitable. Without making a conflict, they represented the interned. Accordingly, they provided Japanese American with an education and necessary administration, including entertainment. Mothers played an important role in internment camp; they provided an education, were mediator, and offered entertainment in order to change the blue atmosphere in the camp.

             First, in various formal meetings, the mothers in the club discussed education, which targeted not only children, but also adults. It can be inferred that their educational goal for general people was to provide them with necessary information to live in the camp: nursing classes, nutrition classes. We can infer two things from this list of classes. First, these three kinds of classes represented the most problematic issues faced by the interned in the camp. For instance, in one meeting they discussed deficit of desired food: “… need to eat cereal, cold tomatoes, rather than insisting on foods, not available such as dark bread.”[3] They might have been concerned with keeping a balanced diet with the limited source of food. In other meetings, they talked about the question of soap distribution: “… only that needed to clean lavatories and showers are provided.”[4] This discussion indicated how bad the situation in the camp was, since the basic hygienic issue was not treated well. Hence, training in nursing was necessary for them to cure and care ill people.

             Since the club members were mothers, they were interested in children’s education. They arranged an invitation for an elementary school principal to come to the camp. Also, the request from the city council to the club to help in getting workers at school building, implies a substantial interaction between the club and school. Other than these endeavor to improve education environment in public school, the mothers themselves actively participated in their kids’ education. Specifically, they provided lectures on boy-girl relations for sex education. Like above educations for general masses, it was addressing problems in the camp, which was possible conflict between two generations. As an isolated society from common U.S society, the internment camp consist of two simple major groups: a group of parents, people who were more toward traditional Japanese culture and children who were assimilated before they come to the camp. The two groups might have great conflicts in the camp due to entirely different cultural backgrounds, and the most contrasting one might be their respective attitudes toward sex. The situation in the camp was severe; they should have been united, and tried hard to win the difficulties. By giving lectures that could reduce the difference in their thinking, the mothers might have tried to integrate the society.

            The second goal of the club was “to serve the people in the camp”[5]. As a representative of each of block, each member took care of administrative issue, which required interacting with camp authorities. Since Mother’s club actively participated in the community in various ways, and had a great influence, the camp authority paid attention to the club. We can notice this explicitly from the blueprints of the women’s dormitory, which was presumably written by the camp authority. It explicitly marked the number of the Mother’s club members in each of the room.[6] By noticing that these women were leading figures, and the representatives of the interned, the camp authority seemed to try to lead them to accept democracy, which represented the most important idea of U.S. society. Actually, the camp representative gave a speech on democracy to women. “I spoke about democracy by sketching some pictures of intolerance”[7].

            Next, the Mother’s Club provided entertainment in the camp. This was distinguished in the sense that no other group could arrange such activities, since adult males were busy in their workplace and younger and older ones didn’t have the connections or power to organize the activities, which sometimes necessitated interacting with the authority. Group activities included “sewing, drafting, hand work, flower arrangement, embroidery, furniture exhibition.”[8] Mother’s Club also opened a party with short talks, refreshments, and entertainment, such as a Hawaiian group, ladies singing, and magic tricks. After the party, “all were very appreciative and happy.”[9] The existence of Mother’s Club was crucial, since it revitalized the interned camp by giving the interned hope and happiness despite the bad situation during the wartime, as also noted in Matsumoto’s City Girls. “As they and their families endured forced uplifting and incarceration, young women drew on prewar girls’ organizational structures to strengthen social ties and create morale-boosting entertainment amid bleak surroundings”.[10]

             Struggling through the harsh condition in the interned camp, each group of the society contributed in different ways. Specifically, the members of Poston Women’s Club, mainly mothers acted as representatives of the interned people and mediated between the people and the camp authority. In addition, they provided the necessary education for the people, and gave entertainment, which revitalized the gloomy society. As the leading figures, they drew serious attention from the camp authority, which tried to keep an eye on their activity and prevent the leaders from resisting U.S authority. However, the general attitude of Mother’s club members toward the camp was conforming; they were just interested in obtaining the full advantages from the given situation, following the specified purpose of the club.

Bibliography

Japanese-American Relocation Centers Records, #3830. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library. Box #8, Doc #19, #21, #24, #28 .

City Girls, Matsumoto, V. (2014.).

Japanese American during World War II, 1984, Matsumoto, V. (1984).

 



[1] Matsumoto, 1984

[2] Box #8, Doc #19

[3] Box #8, Doc #19

[4] Box #8, Doc #19

[5] Box #8, Doc #19

[6] Box #8, Doc #21

[7] Box #8, Doc #24

[8] Box #8, Doc #19

[9] Box #8, Doc #19

[10] Matsumoto Valerie, 2014

 

 

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