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Beate Sirota Gordon
Born October 25, 1923 (1923-10-25) (age 86)
 Austria Vienna

Beate Sirota Gordon (born in Vienna, October 25, 1923) is a former Performing Arts Director of the Japan Society and of Asia Society, and was a member of the team that worked under Douglas MacArthur on the Constitution of Japan.

She is the only child of pianist Leo Sirota, a Ukrainian Jew who had fled war-torn Russia and settled in Vienna, Austria. Sirota's family later emigrated to Japan, where Leo Sirota taught at the Imperial Academy of Music (now Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music) in Tokyo[1]. She attended the German School for six years, until the age of 12, when she transferred to the American School in Japan as a result of her parents deeming the German School "too Nazi"[1]; she lived in Tokyo a total of ten years before she moved to Oakland, California, in 1939 to attend Mills College. During World War II, she was cut off from her parents who remained in Japan. During the war, she worked for the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service of the FCC, for the Office of War Information, and for Time Magazine[1]. As soon as the war ended, she went to Japan in search of her parents, who survived the war under detention in Karuizawa[1]. She was the first civilian woman to arrive in post-war Japan. At that time, being fluent in Japanese, she worked for SCAP as a translator.

When the U.S. began writing a new constitution for Japan, Sirota was enlisted to help and was assigned to the subcommitee dedicated to writing the section of the constitution devoted to civil rights[1]. As one of only two women in the room, the other being economist Eleanor Hadley, played an integral role in writing into the Japanese Constitution legal equality between men and women in Japan. In 1947, Sirota was a target of Major General Charles A. Willoughby's yearlong investigation of Leftist Infiltration, in which he tried, but failed, to construct a case against Sirota charging her with advancing the Communist cause within the new government of Japan[2].

Sirota currently resides in New York City and uses her married name, Beate Sirota Gordon. She has two children, Nicole and Geoffrey Gordon. She often makes appearances at schools, universities, and other institutions in the United States and Japan, giving lectures about her life.


  • Beate Sirota Gordon. 1945 Nen no Kurisumasu (『1945年のクリスマス』). Tokyo: Kashiwashobo, 1995. ISBN 4-7601-1077-1
    • originally published in Japanese under the title: 1945 Nen no Kurisumasu, given literary form in Japanese by Makiko Hiraoka
  • Beate Sirota Gordon. The Only Woman in the Room - A Memoir. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1997. ISBN 4-7700-2145-3
  • Bendersky, J.W. The Jewish Threat: Anti-Semitic Politics of the U.S. Army. NY: Basic Books, 2000. ISBN 0-465-00616-3
  1. ^ a b c d e Dower, John W. Embracing Defeat. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999. pp365-7.
  2. ^ Bendersky, 2000, p.400

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