Deaf Japanese Women from WW II era

This research is from Selena Moon, who describes herself as visually impaired and is working on Japanese and disability research during WW II.

Kikue Ukai (Fujii) is a poet who wrote articles for the Silent Worker etc. She was also a librarian.

CSD History ~ Japanese American CSD Alumni

By Ronald Hirano | CSD Alum

Photos courtesy of Selena Moon | Independent Scholar & Researcher

CSD alumna Kikue Ukai, became a groundbreaking Deaf writer and editor

In 1921, Kikue Ukai’s parents enrolled her in the California School for the Deaf, from which she graduated at the age of 18.

In 1923, Kikue enrolled at Gallaudet. Kikue frequently contributed to Gallaudet’s literary magazine The Buff and Blue, providing a number of essays on women’s fashion and social commentary. 

Kikue left Gallaudet in 1928 and returned to Oakland, where she entered California School for the Deaf in nearby Berkeley. In 1934, she passed a civil service exam that allowed her to work as a librarian, the first Nisei ever to do so, and thereafter was hired by the Oakland Public Library.

In 1936, Ukai began writing a literary column titled “Literary By-Paths” for the English section of the San Francisco newspaper New World Sun, or Shin Sekai Asahi.

See full story about Kikue Ukai's life (written by Jonathan van Harmelen)

Selena Moon is a Japanese American historian who has included Japanese American Deaf history in her research:

The first known Deaf Japanese American student at California School for the Deaf was Mary Matsuda, who attended from around 1898-1907. The second was an author and literary critic Kikue Ukai (Fujii). She wrote for several Gallaudet publications. After leaving Gallaudet, she wrote for many Japanese American newspapers and eventually had her column, "Literary By-Paths With Kikue Ukai".

When World War II broke out, 10 of the 11 Japanese American students from California School for the Deaf were sent to incarceration camps. One of them was Hannah Takagi, who came up with the name for the Helen Keller School (a school for disabled Japanese American children at the Tule Lake relocation camp in northern California). Hannah Takagi corresponded with Helen Keller and read Keller’s reply during her testimony at the Redress Hearings to petition the government for an apology and monetary compensation for the incarceration. She and other CSD alums—siblings Ernest and Nancy Ikeda (Baldwin) and Ron Hirano—have been interviewed about their experiences in the camps to preserve the history and ensure that it never happens again.

See Selena Moon’s poster

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Published On: Apr 19, 2023

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