Publication Date

Spring 2019

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dorothea Browder (Director), Marko Dumančić, and Paul Fischer

Degree Program

Department of History

Degree Type

Master of Arts


This thesis analyses the experiences, memories, and events of the World War II mass incarceration of Japanese Americans to determine what changes this traumatic event engendered in the gender roles of Issei and Nisei women. The events of incarceration separated families and broke down traditional societal norms leaving a deeply emotional and psychological scar upon the Japanese American community. Ironically, new opportunities arose for Issei and Nisei women as both a result of the effects of the mass incarceration upon the Japanese American community and because of governmental pressures such as labor shortages and the cost of housing over one hundred thousand prisoners. Issei women stepped into authority roles after the arrests of Japanese American community leaders and, in some cases, asserted their authority as mothers to stay in the United States against their husbands wishes. Nisei women were offered more opportunities in higher education and careers which allowed them to choose if they wanted to pursue an education or a career. These opportunities also allowed women more choices for marriage. While the decision of when to marry during the war years seems split between immediately before, during, and then in the years following the war, there is also a consistent pattern of women waiting to marry until after they had finished their education or worked for a few years. These patterns differ from both Issei and older Nisei women who often married early. World War II and mass incarceration is an extremely painful event that left deep wounds upon the Japanese American community, however it also gave Issei and Nisei women opportunities to choose what roles to fill and when.


Japanese Studies | United States History | Women's History