Published On: Fri, Aug 2nd, 2019

Two Western Women Helped Rebuild Postwar Japan

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Following the end of WWII, Japan became occupied by the Allied Powers, led by the U.S. Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Several hundred U.S. civilians as well as military personnel were assigned to SCAP (also known as (GHQ, General Headquarters). Among them, there were two women, Beate Sirota and Eleanor Hadley, who left a significant contribution to the democratization of Japan.

Trust Busting Beauty, Eleanor Hadley

Hadley was born in 1916, from an engineer father and an educator mother. Hadley studied at Tokyo University as a fellowship student for two years, and later became the first Westerner to visit the site of Nanking Massacre (the site of a mass murder of Chinese by the Japanese Imperial Army). After this experience, her pacifist principle took a course towards standing up against a cruel regime.

At the end of the war, Hadley, a PhD student of economics at Harvard University, became recruited to work with GHQ, as an imperative advisor in Zaibatsu Kaitai (breaking Zaibatsu, a big business conglomerate that dominated Japan’s economy). Hadley was 31 years old and became feared as “the trust busting beauty,” by Japanese businessmen and government. Her extensive work in attempt to de-concentrate postwar Japan included Antitrust policies creating a more efficient and competitive economy.

Labeled as Communist

At the onset of Korean War, with the fear of the spread of Communism, the U.S. policy was changed to focus on the growth of Japan’s economy. Hadley, subsequently, played a central role in abandoning the complete dissolution of Zaibatsu. She received the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Japanese government in 1986.

Two Western Women Helped Rebuild Postwar Japan

Hadley’s life turned to a nightmare back in the U.S. after she returned from her work in Japan. She was placed in the Communist blacklist without her knowledge by Maj. Gen. Charles Willoughby, who was MacArthur’s conservative chief of intelligence. Hadley lost a CIA job offer along with her security clearance. Willoughby had contested Hadley’s work and tried to sabotage her reputation and achievements by collaborating with some Japanese businesses.

While working as a college professor, she fought to clear her name for 16 years, and finally succeeded with the support of Sen. Henry Jackson of Washington State.

Hadley dedicated her life to fight against the abuse of power in her productive years and retired in 1987. She returned to Seattle, WA to stay with her elderly mother, and then spent her last years in a retirement home in Normandy Park, Washington until her death in 2007.

Establishment of Japanese Woman’s Rights by Beate Sirota

When Sirota went to Japan to join the GHQ’s team to construct the Japanese Constitution, she was barely 22 years old.

She was born in 1923, and graduated from the same college (Mills College in Oakland, CA) as Hadley. Sirota’s father, a Ukrainian Jewish pianist, settled in Japan for almost 15 years, which gave her the opportunity to be fluent in the Japanese language before she left to study in the United States.

After graduating from college, Sirota initially worked as a translator for GHQ, but was later assigned to the subcommittee to write the civil rights section of the Japanese Constitution. She and Hadley were the only women on the subcommittee.

While the U.S. Constitution failed to address specific women’s rights at that time, Sirota was adamant about guaranteeing specific rights to Japanese women. After the frustrating negotiation, she managed to include two clauses that stipulated equality under the law, regardless of gender, and more specifically, applying marriage and property rights to women.

Sirota was a significant contributor to the democratization of Japan, however, just as Hadley became a target of scrutiny by Willoughby, Sirota, too was labeled and investigated by Willoughby as a Communist leaning Leftist.

Contribution by Hadley and Sirota

Hadley and Sirota worked to improve specific elements of Japanese postwar society – economy and Civil Rights. Due to the strong attachments towards traditions and old values among the Japanese, their efforts may have appeared too western or progressive. Their democratic efforts were countered by a conservative cohort from the West. However, their commitments to influence the democratization of Japan reflect a foundation of common social justice and the struggle against oppression and the abuse of power.

About the Author

- Paul Linus is an eminent online journalist who has been writing news, features and editorials on different websites from across the world for about a decade. He can be contacted at

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