The Atlantic

The American Woman Who Wrote Equal Rights Into Japan's Constitution

As a 22-year-old military aide, Beate Sirota Gordon gave Japan's new founding document its own version of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Source: Chiaki Tsukumo / Reuters

American efforts to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution have failed since the early 1920s. But, in 1946, a 22-year-old naturalized American citizen participating in a secret crash project in occupied postwar Japan succeeded in writing two strikingly simple but powerful clauses into the modern Japanese constitution that stipulate equality among the sexes as well as civil rights for women involving marriage, money, and family.

The young woman, Beate Sirota Gordon, later became a well-known, decorated figure in Japan for her pathbreaking efforts. But she was never widely known in her adopted country. Gordon died last Sunday at age 89 at her home in Manhattan. The women's rights provisions, drafted under

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