Undermining the Occupation: Women Coalminers in 1940s Japan

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Matthew Allen


Using the case of women coal miners from a remote Kyushu district, this paper attempts to highlight some of the difficulties associated with an occupying power introducing major labour reforms. In this case I look at women’s employment in the mines during the 1930s-40s, and examine how and why women resisted the proscription against women’s mining labour, introduced by the Occupation in 1947, through the years of US control. The resistance to the edict by both small-medium sized coal mining management and women coalminers demonstrates that even when an occupation power appears in total control of a nation, the culture of the occupied is a significant factor that must not be overlooked. It is clear that many companies continued to operate in defiance of Occupation edicts for many years after 1945; the culture of the coalfields – the total Panopticon-like control of small mining towns and villages by mining companies – plays an important part in understanding how this situation came about. The removal of women from the mines did take place, but for reasons that were not within the ambit of the Occupation’s motivations.

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Author Biography

Matthew Allen, University of Wollongong

Matthew Allen is Professor and Head of the School of History and Politics, at the University of Wollongong, Australia.