“The first bill I shall introduce will be one to admit Hawaii to Statehood”

From 1849 to 1959, Hawaiians repeatedly attempted to become a state. In 1849, pressure from Britain and France forced King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III prepared a provisional deed ceding the Kingdom of Hawaii to the United States. He gave the letter to the United States Commissioner, but as the pressure decreed, it was never implemented.

In 1854, the king singed an order, directing the Minister of Foreign Relations to find out how the United States viewed annexation, and the terms and conditions they would agree to. The Hawaiian government drafted a treaty that August, for Hawaii to obtain full statehood, but the informal negotiations fell apart. Over thirty years later, on September 8, 1897, the Republic of Hawaii ratified an annexation treaty, which a joint resolution of Congress accepted as the Newlands Resolution, which President McKinley signed.

It was not until April 30, 1900, when Preisdent McKinley signed the Organic Act, that established the government of the Territory of Hawaii that all those who had been citizens of the Republic of Hawaii on August 12, 1898, were now citizens of the Territory of Hawaii and the United States.

Although Hawaii’s first Territorial Delegate to Congress, Robert Wilcox pledged that his first bill he would introduce would be to allow Hawaii to become a state, and by 1940, 67% of Hawaiians voted in favor of statehood in the general election – it was not until 1958 when Delegate John Burns, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson and Democratic Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, negotiated a two-step process admitting Alaska as the 49th state in 1958 and Hawaii as the 50th state in 1959.

Shortly before Hawaii achieved statehood, in March 1959, Life magazine published an article, “Hawaii—Beauty, Wealth, Amiable People,” which included several color photographs of the people and places of Hawaii, including a Dole pineapple plantation and children learning a Mamala paddle dance to honor of Lono, the god of peace and agriculture.

On March 11, 1959, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the statehood bill, which President Eisenhower signed on March 18, 1959. Finally, on August 18, Hawaii was admitted into the United States. On August 24, Senators Oren E. Long, Hiram L. Fong, and Representative Daniel K. Inouye took their oaths of office in Washington D.C. Representative Inouye became Hawaii’s first voting memebr of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 2003, the Hawaii Legislature passed a bill to organized events to celebrate Admission Day on the weekend of August 15 through 17.

However, in recent decades, the attitude toward celebrating Hawaiian statehood, and Hawaiian statehood in general, has changed. In 1959, more than 90% of the public supported statehood. There was dancing in the streets and fireworks at the Iolani Palace. Governor Ben Cayetano – the first Filipino-American governor in the U.S. —and the nation. – did celebrate Statehood Day, from San Francisco in 2000, and issued a public statement in 2002, he had since ceased commemorating the day, citing it as too controversial. His successors have felt the same, and have refused to celebrate, though Gov. Linda Lingle organized a government conference on the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood.

“Who does not understand should either learn, or be silent.”

John_Dee_Ashmolean

John Dee (13 July 1527 – 1608/9), the English and Welsh mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer was born on July 13, 1527. He was a Cambridge-educated scientist, who did postgraduate work with mapmaker Gerardus Mercator. He became an authority on navigation, and also suggested that England adopt the Gregorian calendar. Although some Tudors may have considered him a philosopher, astrologer, and even a magician, he was mostly a mathematician and chief scientific adviser to Queen Elizabeth I. Using math, Dee created horoscopes, and practiced alchemy, numerology, and astology.

His father Roland Dee was of Welsh descent and was a “gentleman sewer” in King Henry VIII’s court. When Queen Mary I came to the throne in 1553, and began persecuting Protestants, Dee’s father Roland was one those arrested, that August. Although he was released, he was deprived of all of his assets, leaving Dee without an inheritance.

The following year, he was offered a mathematics post at the University of Oxford, which would have alleviated his financial strain, but he refused the offer. On 28 May 1555, Dee was arrested on charges of “calculating” because mathematics was considered analogous to having magical powers. Despite being guilty of the charges, Dee was released after three months.

The following year, Dee presented Queen Mary with plans to build a national library. Though Queen Mary did not support the plan, Dee set off to create his own. Over the next five years, Dee collected books on astronomy, astrology, mathematics, coding, and magic, poetry, and religion. The library at his Mortlake home, which eventually grew larger than the Oxford and Cambridge libraries, had over 4,000 books.

Dee used his other skills for various purposes. He had traveled the Continent and returned to England in 1551 with many navigational instruments. Beginning in 1555, and for the next thirty years, he was a consultant to the Muscovy Company, formed that year by navigator and explorer Sebastian Cabot and many London merchants. It’s goal was to find the Northeast Passage. Some of Dee’s contributions were preparing navigational charts for the polar region and instructing the crew in geometry and cosmography before their voyage to North America in 1576.

When Elizabeth became Queen, Dee’s fortunes changed. Elizabeth asked him to use astrology to select the appropriate coronation day. In 1582, Pope Gregory issued a proclamation that the Gregorian calendar, based on the date of the Council of Nicaea in 325, would be used.

Up to that point, the church had used Roman Empire’s Julian calendar, adopted by the Council of Nicaea in 325, to ensure that Easter was observed at the same time. However, the Julian calendar added an extra ten minutes to the year, and by the 1582, an extra ten days had accumulated. The Council of Trent removed ten days from October 1582 and brought it back to the same astrological alignment as the Council of Nicaea. Roman Catholic countries accepted the new calendar, but most Protestant countries did not.

However, Queen Elizabeth did seriously consider adopting the Gregorian calendar, and chose Dee as an adviser. The following February, Dee propsed that the calendar remove elven days to align it with the astronomical year. While several of Elizabeth’s advisers approved the plan, the Archbishop of Canterbury did not. Dee’s plan failed, and England’s calendar at odds with that in the rest of Europe until 1752.

Dee continued to regain his lost income for the rest of his life. He attempted to gain an appointment as Master of St. John’s Cross, which, though approved by Elizabeth, was not approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1596, he was appointed warden of the Collegiate Chapter in Manchester. But, tragedy struck a few years later when his wife and several children died of the plague in Manchester in 1605. Dee returned to London and died a few years later.

One of the John Dee Society’s missions – like the Library of Congresses’ attempt to recreate Thomas Jefferson’s library – is to reconstruct Dee’s library, “based on his Catalog of manuscripts and books of 1583, prior to its dispersal throughout Europe.”

Dee has or has reputed to be the subject of many art forms. Christopher Marlowe’s eponymous character from his play Doctor Faustus may have been based on him, as was perhaps the magician Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In modern times, he was a character in the Damon Albarn’s opera, Dr Dee, and even the band Iron Maiden’s song The Alchemist.

The second book of Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy, Shadow of Night features John Dee and fellow alchemist Edward Kelly during the early 1590s.

Arthur Dee (13 July 1579 – September or October 1651), John Dee’s eldest son, was born on his father’s 52nd birthday.

In 1583, his family left their Mortlake home and traveled around Europe over the next few years, including in Prague where he lived in one of the houses that belonged to Emperor Rudolph’s astronomer. In 1586, the family settled in Trebon in Southern Bohemia. There John Dee and alchemist Edward Kelly performed alchemical experiments and Arthur witnessed his first alchemical tramsutation, turning base metals into gold.

In 1602, at 21, Arthur married Isabella, daughter of Edward Prestwich de Hulme, a Justice of the Peace in Manchester. There Dee practiced medicine for many years. Three years later, Arthur became a freeman of Mercer’s Company, by patrimony, and also by donating some of his father’s books. The following month, his mother died of the plague, and his father returned to Mortlake. Around that time, Arthur moved to London to set up a practice. Over the next nearly ten years, the Censors of the Royal College of Physicians of London summoned him several times for practicing medicine illegally, though nothing was done until 1614. He was asked on what authority he practiced and told them that medicine was his profession and that he could make a business of it. He was warned to refrain from practicing. At a meeting three weeks later, Dee presented his qualifications, the doctorate and letters patent from the University of Basel. The following May he was questioned again and answered that he was the Queen’s physician and practiced by royal perogative.

Tzar Mikhail and Dee’s paths would cross when went to Russia in 1621. Dee became Tzar Mikhail Romanov’s personal doctor. Earlier that year, King James I had written to him of Dee’s loyal service. Dee’s father had been offered the appointment in Russia, which Dee accepted. He stayed in Moscow for 14 years until his wife became ill due to the climate and died in 1634. In a letter to Tsar Mikhail in 1633, King Charles I called Dee a “skillful and learned Phisitian.” [sic] to Queen Anne.

He returned to England where, by 1635, he was Physician Extraordinary to King Charles I. He retired from the position some years after and went to live in Norwich. He died in October 1651.

“It Took Away The Rest Of My Life”

On June 24, 1973, thirty-two people died after the UpStairs Lounge, a gay bar on Chartres Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana burned from an arson attack. It is the deadliest fire in New Orleans and the second deadliest act of violence against LGBTQ people in U.S. history. Twenty-nine died at the scene, and three died later from their injuries.

Patrons at the bar, who participated in various celebrations, events, and activities, were celebrating the fourth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. There were around sixty-five people still in the bar around eight pm when the buzzer sounded downstairs. When it continued to ring, the bartender, Douglas “Buddy” Rasmussen sent a regular downstairs. When he opened the door, a fireball burst through the door. The draft sucked the fire upstairs and within second, the walls were burning. Douglas Rasmussen escorted twenty people through the back exit to adjoining rooftops. A few, like Francis Dufrene, whose body was on fire, squeezed through the burglar bars on the windows.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze around sixteen minutes after receiving the call. Many of the victims were so badly burned that they could only be identified by dental records, including several victims who were patients of another victim, Dr. Perry Lane Waters, Jr., a Jefferson Parish dentist. Twenty-nine of the victims, including the only woman, were identified, but three were so badly burned that they were unidentifiable. Fifteen men who leaped from the fire escape were injured, with six in serious condition.

One of the few press articles about the tragedy was a TimesPicayune headline which called the scene “Hitler’s Incinerators.” No public officials spoke about the event, though New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu and Governor Edwin Edwards had issued condolences in November after six people died in a fire at the Rault Center, and in January after eight died in an arson at a downtown Howard Johnson’s. Families refused to claim the victims. The three unidentified victims and Ferris LeBlanc, whose family did not know of his death were buried in unmarked graves in a potter’s field. In 2015, LeBlanc’s family – who had accepted his sexuality – learned of his fate. They had lost touch after LeBlanc left California. While they eventually found records, the family was unable to locate LeBlanc’s grave.

Police investigated for two months and issued a 64-page report in August. They found little evidence: a can of lighter fluid at the scene, and two suspects, David Dubose and Roger Nunez neither of whom were ever prosecuted. David Dubose was a teenager who confessed to the crime, though he soon recanted. His alibi was confirmed and he passed a polygraph test. Police focused on their second suspect, Roger Nunez, who had been kicked out of the bar earlier that night for fighting with another patron, according to Michael Scarborough, another patron’s testimony. As he left, Nenuz had said “something to the effect of ‘I’m going to burn this place down,’ or ‘I’m going to burn you out,'” Scarborough told police.

Bur before he could be interviewed, Nunez had a seizure. He was taken to Charity Hospital. When he was released, the police were not notified and it took months for them to find him. When questioned, he denied setting the fire and that he wasn’t sure had been at the Upstairs bar that night. People he knew claimed that he had confessed to the crime. At least one source has inverted the identities of the victims, stating that it was Dubose who patronized the bar that night, and not Nunez.

In the final report, the police department concluded that, “Although there is speculation of arson, as of the writing of this report, there is no physical evidence to indicate anything other than this being a fire of undetermined origin.” The coroner classified all 32 deaths as “accidental fire fatalities.”

It took a week before a church agreed to hold a memorial. St. Mark’s United Methodist Church. Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the MCC, promised to safeguard the mourners’ identities, and offered to let them leave through the back door when television crews appeared outside the front door. No one accepted.

In 2013, composer Wayne Self created a musical “Upstairs,” based on the arson. He has created composite characters of the thirty-two victims. A documentary, “The UpStairs Lounge Fire” was also created that year.

A documentary of the tragedy, Upstairs Inferno premiered in New Orleans on June 24, 2015, the 42nd anniversary. The film has traveled around the world, including many US states, Greece, and Ireland.

ABC also released a documentary, “Prejudice and Pride” on June 24, 2018, the 45th anniversary.

The deadliest attack on LGBTQ people occurred on June 12, 2016 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The club, located within twenty miles of Disney World, billed itself as “Orlando’s Premier Gay Nightclub.” Saturdays were “Latin Night” at the club. Around two a.m. just before last call, the gunman entered the club, which had around three hundred and twenty people inside. Over the next three hours, when police killed him, he killed thirty-eight in the club. Two other victims died on the street outside the club, and nine died en route or at hospitals.

Unlike in the aftermath of the Upstairs arson, many public officials issued statements. Florida Gov. Rick Scott asserted that “this is clearly an act of terror” and that he had declared a state of emergency in Orange County, ensuring that resources were made available from the state immediately.

The shooting marked the first time that Facebook’s “Safety Check” feature was used in the United States. The feature had been used several dozen times over the last two years, including during the Paris attack in November, 2015 and wildfires in Alberta, Canada in April, 2016.

Over a year later, Pulse owner Barbara Poma announced that the site will become a memorial and museum to commemorate survivors and victims. The onePULSE Foundation, the non-profit which Poma founded and serves as executive director and CEO, fill fund the initiative.

“I wanted to write stories about human beings, not the stereotypical Asian”

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month was originally a week long, when President Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation in 1978. The week beginning on May 4 was chosen so that it would include May 7 and May 10. The first date was when Nakahama Manjiro1 (John Mung) arriving in New Bedford harbor in Massachusetts in 1843, aboard the John Howland as the first documented Japanese immigrant to the United States. He eventually returned to Japan and was instrumental in the negotiations between Commodore Perry and the Japanese government. Manjiro’s story is still relatively unknown but there is now a ballet. The second date marks when the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. Most of those who worked on it were Chinese immigrants. In 1990, the week-long celebration turned into a month.

I learned more about Japanese-American history in two semesters of college and two years of graduate school than I had all through high school, though mostly through my own reading and research. As a child, I read Yoshiko Uchida’s Journey to Topaz and Journey Home without realising that these fictional stories were based on true events until I read her autobiography Invisible Thread some time later. Invisible Thread would be my first exposure to my alma mater, Smith College, which Uchida attended for her Masters program while her parents were incarcerated at Topaz, in Utah.

During my sophomore year of college, I took a course called “Narratives of Interment” where we studied poetry, autobiographies, novels and other literature written by Japanese-Americans about their and their families experiences in the concentration camps in the United States during World War II. While most writings were autobiographical, some, such as John Okada’s No-No Boy, were fictional, but based on historical events. I chose my final paper topic on multi-racial Japanese-American families after reading Jeanne Wakatsuki-Houston’s Farewell to Manzanar about her family’s experiences at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California. One of the couples there, was a Japanese man and his black wife. I had thought interracial marriage was illegal and decided to do some research. I found that, it was only illegal in some states and that many couples circumvented the law by marrying in other states. I found that the government was meticulous in finding anyone who was Japanese, including those with 1/16th (one great-grandparent) Japanese ancestry. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, my research was only superficial and it would be several years before I returned to the topic.

It was also while discussing Farewell to Manzanar that one of my classmates asked if we could visit the site. Our professor promised to look into it. We left class, doubtful that such a thing would happen, only to find out that the American Studies department had funds left over and was going to pay our way. As it was nearing the end of the semester, only about half of my classmates could attend. We arrived in LA at 8 PM PST, 11 PM EST and woke up at 5 AM the next day. But it was all worth it when we realised that we had inadvertently come on the date of the annual pilgrimage and would be riding the bus with former inmates, who shared their stories with us on the long ride.

Desert

 

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That year’s ceremony was dedicated to Sue Kunitomi Embrey, who had worked to make Manzanar a National Historic Site and had died the previous year. It was a sobering experience for me, as a bi-racial Japanese-American, knowing that had I been born sixty years earlier on the east coast, I would have been incarcerated here as well. But unlike most, my family would have been allowed to leave camp and return to the east coast. Despite the solemnity, it felt like a family reunion, with everyone catching up on the news. I was amazed at how eager everyone was to talk to us after they learned who we were and why we were here. It was an extraordinary, moving experience. I had hoped to return, this year, after hearing about the restoration and to see how it had changed since I had been there. But I was unable to attend and hope to do so next year, for the 50th anniversary of the pilgrimage.

In my senior seminar, I used the Sophia Smith archives to write a paper about Japanese and Japanese-American Smith College students. During my research, I discovered that Ninomiya Tei who attended Smith from 1906 to 1910, was not the first Asian-American student to have attended Smith. That distinction went to Inokuchi Akuri, who attended Smith’s graduate school for a year to study physiology and sports science, before transferring to the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics. Inokuchi eventually returned to Japan to teach at her alma mater, the Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School and later taught dance and physical education to Emperor Meiji and his family. My research paper ended World War II, during which time, six Japanese and Japanese-American students attended Smith College as undergraduate and graduate students, several of whom had families in the camps.

It was not until graduate school that I embarked on a broader study of Asian-American history. In addition to my courses on American imperialism and U.S.-Japan relations, I read widely about modern Asian-American and Japanese-American history, from Chinese-American immigration to diplomatic and cultural relations between the United States and Japan. I also learned about Nakahama Manjiro and Commodore James Biddle, who arrived in Japan in June, 1846, in the last years of Japan’s two hundred year seclusion. Biddle wanted to negotiate a treaty with Japan, but was refused. It would not be until 1854, a year after Commodore Perry first arrived that the U.S. and Japan would negotiated their first treaty. Commodore Biddle was a distant relation to Francis Biddle, U.S. Attorney General during World War II, who initially opposed but later authorized the Japanese-American incarceration. He would also serve as a judge during the postwar Nuremberg trials.

It was during my U.S.-Japan relations course that I returned to studying multi-racial Japanese-Americans. I wrote my final paper on Japanese women who married black GIs during the American Occupation (1945-1952), which has only recently begun to be studied. I was surprised by the amount of racism that the couples faced from all sides, Japanese, blacks, whites, and Japanese-Americans.

That same semester, I took Writing History and History Communication, in which I continued my study of interracial Japanese and American couples, but also expanded it to include all interracial relationships. In History Communication, we explored various means of bringing history to the public, from podcasts to infographics and other visual and audio. I used graphics to show the history of anti-miscegenation laws, based on Peggy Pascoe’s What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America to non-academic audiences. I expanded on Pascoe’s conclusion about a “color-blind” society in the wake of Loving v. Virginia, which overturned bans on interracial marriage, citing everything from movies to current events in the on-going preoccupation with and negative attitudes toward interracial couples.

In Writing History, we learned how to craft a narrative, write character studies and set a scene. Initially, I wanted to write a book proposal about multi-racial Japanese-Americans who had been incarcerated in the Manzanar Children’s Village orphanage and the Manzanar concentration camp during World War II, but found the source material lacking. The history of the Children’s Village turned out to be far more complicated than I had initially thought, and in the end, I wrote a book proposal about the Manzanar Children’s Village. My trip to Manzanar ten years earlier helped both frame my narrative and imagine, however superficially, the hardships that Japanese-Americans had faced during that time. I also using camp newspapers, interviews and documentaries to augment my research, ending, as I had with my History Communication project, on the current state of research about the Children’s Village, which, while still mostly a taboo subject among many former inhabitants, several are working to spread their story.

1I have rendered the names of Japanese individuals using the surname first.

The Artist Speaks

March is Women’s History Month, after Congress passed a resolution on March 1, 1987. March first is World Book Day. Here are some historical events that occurred on March 1.

Events

"Court Trial of Witches," illustration by unknown artist, published in "Witchcraft Illustrated" by Henrietta D Kimball, circa 1892

“Court Trial of Witches,” illustration by unknown artist, published in “Witchcraft Illustrated” by Henrietta D Kimball, circa 1892

On March 1, 1692, Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, were brought before magistrates in Salem Village, Massachusetts, beginning the Salem witch trials. Sarah Good was a poor woman, Sarah Osborne, whose sister-in-law had married into the Putnam family, and Tituba was Reverend Samuel Parris’s slave.

Over the next few months, twenty people would be executed – nineteen hanged, one pressed to death – and over one hundred and fifty people would be accused. Thirteen of those executed were women, and around twenty-four other women were convicted.

Birthdays

Theresa Bernstein, American painter and printmaker, ca. 1890-2002.jpg

Photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son in 1930, Archives of American Art     Smithsonian Institution

Theresa Ferber Bernstein-Meyerowitz (March 1, 1890 – February 13, 2002) was a Polish-American, Jewish artist and painter whose career lasted ninety years. She was born in Philadelphia and graduated from the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now the Moore College of Art and Design) in 1911. She studied with William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League. She painted urban scenes such as trolleys, elevated trains, and Coney Island. Her painting style was considered by some to be “masculine,” but Bernstein’s painted women at leisure and the workplace.

Although Jewish subjects were not her specialty, she depicted weddings and synagogue services. Despite growing up in what she called a secular household, Bernstein was an ardent Zionist who attended the first American Zionist meeting in Madison Square Garden in 1923.

Her popularity waned after the 1920s, but the women’s movement led to renewed interest in her work. Her paintings are part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, the Chicago Art Institute, the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Museum.

Theresa Bernstein died on February 12, 2002, two weeks shy of her 112th birthday, though she may have been as old as nearly 116.

File:Mercedes de Acosta.jpg

Mercedes de Acosta (March 1, 1893 – May 9, 1968) was an American poet, playwright, fashion icon, and novelist, known for her many lesbian relationships. She was born in New York and befriended Degas, Tolstoy, Debussy, and others. Her wardrobe was the start of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Her lovers included Russian actresses Alla Nazimova and Tallulah Bankhead, dancer Isadora Duncan. While in a relationship with Duncan, Acosta began writing, producing three volumes of poetry, two novels, four produced plays, and many that wee no performed, and screenplays. Some of her other lovers in the 1930s included Ona Munson, who played Belle Watling, the madam, in Gone With the Wind, and dancer Adele Astaire, Fred Astaire’s sister).

In 1920 Mercedes married painter Abram Poole, though she kept her own name when she married and later joined the Lucy Stone League, which advocated women keeping their surnames upon marriage. Throughout her marriage, she continued having relationships with women, including actress Eva Le Gallienne, for whom she created several plays, including Sandro Botticelli, a fictional account of Botticelli’s model for his famous painting The Birth of Venus.

In 1931, Acosta met Greta Garbo, though the exact nature of their relationship is unclear, as Garbo publicly maintained that the relationship was platonic. Acosta also had relationships with other women, including Marlene Dietrich at the same time.

When her finances became dire, Acosta published her memoir, Here Lies the Heart, in 1960, though she was vague about her various relationships. She also sold her papers to the Rosenbach Museum and Library, including working material for her memoir, personal correspondence, objects and photos. Although some of the correspondence was sealed until the correspondent’s death at her request, all is now available.

Doris Hare.jpg

Doris Hare, MBE (1 March 1905 – 30 May 2000) was a British actress, singer, dancer and comedian. Her career spanned many countries, genres, and mediums. She was born in Bargoed, Monmouthshire, Wales. Her stage debut at three at her parents’ mobile theatre, was at a time without television, films, or microphones. Nearly fifty years later, she made her television debut in 1953 in an episode of Douglas Fairbansk Junior Presents. She performed in New York, London, and Scotland, included Mistress Quickly in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, Mrs Peachum in The Beggar’s Opera, Katherine in Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta and Mary Hearn in The Farmer’s Wife and Emlyn Williams’s thriller Night Must Fall.

She is best known for being the second actress to portray Mrs Mabel “Mum” Butler in the popular sitcom On the Buses alongside Reg Varney. By the time she starred in On the Buses, she had spent over sixty years on stage, from performing in music halls during her childhood, to revues between the wars, to the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. She was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her wartime service in the Merchant Navy.

Books

Some of my favourite books by and about women include:

  • Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

  • Deborah Harkness’s The All Souls trilogy

  • Mary Higgins Clark’s Kitchen Privileges: A Memoir

  • Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St Mary’s series

  • Celeste Ng’s, Little Fires Everywhere

  • Elizabeth Peters’s The Amelia Peabody series

  • Jennifer Chiaverini’s Elm Creek Quilts series and her other historical fiction

  • Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian

  • Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

  • Sarah Nelson’s So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading

  • Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Egypt Game

Written Into Our History

Seventy-six years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, leading thousands of Japanese-Americans to be incarcerated in prison camps. This Executive Order was far from the first anti-Japanese-American law enacted by the United States government. From the Naturalization Act of 1790 to the Immigration Act of 1924,
Japanese immigrants were prohibited from becoming naturalized, owning land, marrying certain people, and eventually immigrating altogether.

In 1936, Roosevelt took his first steps to prepare for incarcerating Japanese-Americans. On August 10, he wrote to his chief of naval operations Admiral William D. Leahy that “every Japanese citizen or non-citizen on the Islands of Oahu who meets these Japanese ships [arriving in Hawaii] or has any connection with their officers or men should be secretly but definitely identified and his or her name be placed on a special list of those who would be the first to be placed in a concentration camp in the event of trouble.

The Alien Registration Act of 1940, required aliens over 14 to register with the government and be fingerprinted. In 1941, Japanese immigrants were subjected to further restrictions when Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8832 on July 26, freezing their assets. In November, he ordered that a list of the names and addresses of all Japanese-Americans, citizens and non-citizens be compiled.

On December 7, 1941, after Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, Japanese-American community leaders were arrested and detained. Within forty-eight hours, nearly 1,300 community leaders, including priests, Japanese language teachers, newspaper publishers, and heads of organizations. Most were men who would be incarcerated for the entire war.

Three weeks later, all enemy aliens in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Utah and Nevada were ordered to surrender contraband, including short-wave radios, cameras, binoculars, and some weapons. Many Japanese-Americans hid or destroyed family heirlooms and Japanese books to prevent them from being confiscated.

Restrictions did not just apply to civilians. On January 5, 1942, Japanese-American selective service registrants were re-classified as IV-C, or “enemy aliens” and many were discharged or reassigned to menial labor, their weapons confiscated. Some states went further than the American government. Later that month, the California State Personnel Board voted to bar “descendants of natives with whom the United States [is] at war” from all civil service positions. However, this was only enforced against Japanese Americans. The following day, January 29, Attorney General Francis Biddle established prohibited zones that barred German, Italian, and Japanese immigrants, beginning with the San Francisco waterfront.

The Army established 12 “restricted areas” on February 4. Enemy aliens were subjected to a curfew and travel restrictions limited to work and locations no more than 5 miles from their homes. Soon, Japanese-Americans would be excluded from these areas completely.

On February 19, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, leading 120,000 Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast to be incarcerated. Over the next few weeks, Japanese-Americans were given days to leave their homes. Some “voluntarily” moved outside the restricted areas, but most stayed. A few weeks later, the
government ended the “voluntary” relocation program and began removing citizens from their homes with only a few days’ notice. Families lost business, homes, and most of their possessions, much of which they would never recover. The property loss is estimated at about $400 million.

During the summer of 2016, I had the privilege of interning for the National
Museum of American History, working on the “Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II” exhibit” exhibit, which opened on February 17, 2017 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066. I researched and wrote about donated objects and their owners, most of which were from the three years of incarceration. They ranged from journals to report cards, letters, and hand-made crafts and clothes. There were also programs for pilgrimages and high school reunions for former inmates and their families. I also cataloged objects into the Smithsonian’s database.

One of the most poignant objects was a letter written by a mother to her thirteen-year-old son’s teacher, asking for his records as the family would be removed from their home in the next few days. The letter dated April 27, 1942, reads:

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Dear Mr. Hayes,

Because of the recent evacua-tion orders, we will have to leave Berkeley on May 1; therefore, I would like to have Harold Hayashi, adv. #205, leave school to help me pack from today.

I would also like to ask for a transfer for Harold so he may enter a school at the camp.

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Harold beside a copy of the letter

This was a unique object among the three hundred or so that I worked with for several reasons. First, it was one of the few handwritten objects. Second, the ink, unlike any other example I saw was blue instead of black. And, three, it was the only object that was written on behalf of someone else.

According to National Archive Records, Harold and his family were sent to the Tanforan temporary detention center and then to the Topaz incarceration camp.

Thirty-four years later, President Gerald Ford formally rescinded Executive Order 9066 by Proclamation 4417.