Following the Meiji Restoration (1868) and the new policies of modernization (kindaika) and Westernization (seiyōka), Japan began to import much more than material goods from the Western imperial powers. New concepts and ideologies soon made their way across the Pacific and freely entered the once “closed country.” Riding this wave were Christian values and models of Western feminism, which in part were proselytized by the American teacher and temperance crusader Mary Greenleaf Clement Leavitt (1830-1912).
Inspired by Christian sermons about the destructive nature of alcohol, Leavitt helped found the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in New York and Ohio in 1873. Soon thereafter, her global crusade led her as far as Japan and other countries including New Zealand, Burma, India, and Turkey, where female allies launched new chapters of the World WCTU. Tired of the ill effects of alcohol on their domestic lives, women worldwide were drawn to the message of temperance and created an unprecedented transnational movement “for God, home and country.”