A Heart at Leisure from Itself: Caroline Macdonald of Japan

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9780774805223: A Heart at Leisure from Itself: Caroline Macdonald of Japan
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Caroline Macdonald (1874-1931) was a Canadian who spent almost her entire working life in Japan, performing a significant role there both in the establishment of the YWCA and in prison reform. A native of Wingham, Ontario, Macdonald graduated from the University of Toronto in 1901 in mathematics and physics and later moved to Tokyo to work for the YWCA. Her subsequent career in social work made her the best-known foreign woman in Tokyo during the 1920s.
In A Heart at Leisure from Itself, Margaret follows Caroline Macdonald's life and career, focusing primarily on her work in Japan on behalf of incarcerated criminals. She also established a social settlement, Shinrinkan - the Home of the Friendless Stranger - and was a mentor of labour union leaders and social democratic politicians. Macdonald was involved with feminists and feminist causes of her time and played a part in the slowly changing position of Japanese women, always with a moderation that did not necessarily reflect her own strongly held opinions.
To a degree unusual among foreigners, Macdonald identified with the lives and aspirations of her Japanese friends and their country. Her story becomes partly their story.

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About the Author:

Margaret Prang is professor emerita of the Department of History at the University of British Columbia.

Review:

This book is a fascinating, sometimes compelling acount of the life and work of a woman missionary in Japan in the early part of this century. This brief review cannot do justice to the magnificence of the picture which Margaret Prang has painted of a devoted, multitalented, passionately committed woman. (Alan Main Aberdeen University Review)

This inspiring and fascinating story of an admirable woman touches on many important issues and ongoing problems, and should be in every library. (Patricia Morley Canadian Book Review Annual)

In this fine book, so gracefuly written, Prang has extended Macdonald’s influence a little further. (Phyllis Airhart Touchstone)

A truly remarkable person, Caroline Macdonald (1874-1931) was a Canadian woman who spent almost her entire working life in Japan and who played a significant role there in both the establishment of the YWCA and in prison reform. A native of Wingham, Ontario, she was one of the first women to attend the University of Toronto, where in 1901 she graduated with honours in mathematics and physics. But rather than follow an academic career, she opted in 1904, through her connections with the Presbyterian Church and the YWCA in Canada and the United States, to move to Tokyo to work as a lay missionary and social worker. During the 1920s, she was the best-known foreign woman in Tokyo.

In 'A Heart at Leisure from Itself' Margaret Prang follows Caroline Macdonald's life and career, focusing on her work in Japan on behalf of incarcerated criminals. Working mostly with male prisoners and their families, Macdonald became an international interpreter of the movement for prison reform work for which she is still warmly remembered in Japan. She regarded herself as a missionary but was also highly critical of much missionary endeavour, her own work being more in the practical than spiritual realm. Her death in 1931 elicited tributes from all over the world, particularly from Japan. Perhaps the most fitting came from Arima Shirosuke, the prison governor with whom Macdonald worked most closely. Reflecting on her life, Arima observed that he thought it was her absolute conviction that every human being was a child of God and her 'effortless' practice of that faith that placed Macdonald 'beyond every prejudice' of religion, race, or class. She was, he said, 'a heart at leisure from itself.'

This book throws light on Japanese-Canadian relations in the first few decades of this century. Macdonald's career reveals the cross-cultural influence of the YWCA in Japan, the role of the Protestant churches there, and the evolution of prison reform in Japan and the people involved in it.

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