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Newly Acquired Gift Collections: American Women in Occupied Japan

The Prange Collection has recently acquired gift collections that document the experiences of four American women during their stays in Allied Occupied Japan. Three of the women served in GHQ/SCAP or for the Occupation forces; one accompanied her husband; and one did both. The collections are unprocessed. Contact prangebunko[at]umd.edu for more information about these collections.

Mead Smith Karras Papers

BLOG_Mead Karras_photo_croppedMead Smith Karras served as an Economist for the Labor Division of the Allied Occupation Forces in Japan from 1946 to 1949. She wrote a monthly report on labor developments and worked with U.S. and Japanese officials to develop and implement Occupation policies on problems affecting women and children in the work force, such as the organization of a Women’s and Minor’s Bureau, participation of women in unions, and enforcement of the Japanese Fair Labor Standards Act.  The Papers include 11 posters, 27 letters, 154 questionnaires, approximately 2,200 photographs, 3 kamishibai, and miscellaneous items.

The Mead Smith Karras Papers were donated to the Prange Collection in December 2014.

Mary Koehler Slides

BLOG_KoehlerMary Koehler served as secretary to the Chief of the Forestry Division, Natural Resources Section, GHQ/SCAP from 1945 to 1949.  Soon after her arrival in Japan, she purchased a Canon camera at the PX with which she documented her experiences in Japan, including a trip to Nikko, the Emperor and Empress on Arbor Day 1948, duck-netting on the Imperial Grounds, ama divers, and a visit to meet Kōkichi Mikimoto, founder of the eponymous luxury pearl company.

The collection is comprised of 540 color slides, 25 of which are glass.  160 of the slides were donated in two carousels that were used for a talk entitled, The Japan I Knew – 1945-1949, by Mary Koehler. The collection also includes narration for the talk by Koehler herself, as well as her hand-written and type-written transcriptions.

The Mary Koehler Slides were donated to the Prange Collection in April 2015.

Lois Beno Photographs and Oral History

BLOG_Beno_20140222_0002In 1947, Lois Beno and her two children joined her husband in Kurume, Japan.  He was in the Air Force, but on loan to the Army, and was in charge of a Counter Intelligence Corps (the CIC) unit in Fukuoka.  The family initially lived in Kurume and later moved to Fukuoka.

The Beno Papers include 32 photographs, an interview with Lois Beno (audio and transcript), and her short description of Japanese customs. In the interview, Beno discusses housing for military dependents, food, sanitation, clothing, transportation, entertainment, and her travels throughout Japan.

The Beno Papers were donated to the Prange Collection in April 2014.

Leora Smith Photographs and Oral History

BLOG_Smith & Mayo_03112014

Leora Smith, left, and Marlene Mayo, right, during the interview, March 11, 2014.

Like Lois Beno, Leora Smith joined her husband in Japan in 1947.  He, too, was on leave from the Air Force to the Counter Intelligence Corps.  He arrived in Japan in 1946 and was stationed in Yokohama. Dependent housing was just being built in Yokohama at that time, so Smith and her husband were temporarily housed in the Fujiya Hotel. In the interview, she describes the hotel and the dependent housing in which they later lived. Smith returned to the United States, but soon came back to Japan — this time she served in the Department of Army, Civilian (DAC) as an Administrative Secretary in a Civil Affairs Office in Kure. An avid photographer, the collection includes 46 photographs taken by Smith, which capture the everyday life of the Japanese, such as children in the classroom and the harvesting of rice.  The photographs were taken in various locations, including Nagano, Odawara, Kamakura, Kure, and Mount Fuji.

The Leora Smith Photographs were donated to the Prange Collection in October 2014.


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