The Society of Friends and the Hiroshima Maidens, 1950s

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 9:10 AM
Concourse E (New York Hilton)
Elyssa Faison, University of Oklahoma
In 1955 twenty-five female atomic bomb victims from Hiroshima came to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan for plastic surgery to repair severe disfigurement and treat debilitating wounds. Their visit had been organized by editor of the Saturday Review of Literature and long-time humanitarian Norman Cousins, together with Hiroshima survivor the Reverend Tanimoto Kiyoshi. For a year and a half the young women underwent multiple surgical operations in New York.  Cousins worked closely with two religiously-backed organizations to make the surgeries and their lengthy American stay possible:  the first was the board and medical staff of Mount Sinai Hospital, a Jewish institution, which agreed to provide the surgeries at no cost; the second was the Society of Friends, whose members in the metropolitan New York and Philadelphia areas hosted the girls in pairs for the duration of their treatments.  Not himself a Quaker, the Jewish Cousins nonetheless believed that the Friends might be the perfect partners for this project, given their pacifist beliefs.  Indeed, the Quaker homestay families became a crucial part of this collaborative plan for postwar cultural diplomacy. This paper puts the Quakers’ participation in these events in the contact of a longer history of US-Japan relations, and examines the role of the Friends as culture brokers who provided the domestic environment so central to this project of medical humanitarianism.
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