- December 8, 1978
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Biographical / Historical
Beate Sirota Gordon was born in Vienna, Austria. At the age of six, she moved to Tokyo with her parents, where her father, Leo Sirota, a well-known concert pianist, was invited to perform and teach at the Imperial Academy of Music. She attended the German School until the age of 12 and then was transferred to the American School. In 1939, she left Japan to attend Mills College in California. During World War II, she was separated from her parents, who had remained in Japan, and was unable to locate them. In late December 1945, she returned to Japan with the Foreign Economic Administration (FEA) of the U.S. Government. At that time, she was reunited with her parents. She was quickly assigned to the Political Affairs Section, Government Section (G2) under General Douglas MacArthur. One month into her appointment, she was selected, with 19 other members of the G2 staff, to draft a new constitution for the Japanese. The Political Affairs Section, consisting of herself, Colonel Roost and Harry Emerson Wildes, was charged with writing the civil rights section. She was largely responsible for the sections of the Constitution relating to women’s rights and equality, especially Article 24, which reads,
"Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.
With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes."
When she returned to the United States in 1948, she married Joseph Gordon, whom she met in Japan when he was Chief interpreter/translator for GHQ/SCAP. He had also been present at the negotiations on the Constitution. She later worked for the Japan Society and as a consultant to the Asia Society, promoting the performing arts, which was her passion.