A truly remarkable person, Caroline Macdonald (1874-1931) was a
Canadian woman who spent almost her entire working life in Japan and
who played a significant role there in both the establishment of the
YWCA and in prison reform. A native of Wingham, Ontario, she was one of
the first women to attend the University of Toronto, where in 1901 she
graduated with honours in mathematics and physics. But rather than
follow an academic career, she opted in 1904, through her connections
with the Presbyterian Church and the YWCA in Canada and the United
States, to move to Tokyo to work as a lay missionary and social worker.
During the 1920s, she was the best-known foreign woman in Tokyo.
In 'A Heart at Leisure from Itself' Margaret Prang follows
Caroline Macdonald's life and career, focusing on her work in Japan
on behalf of incarcerated criminals. Working mostly with male prisoners
and their families, Macdonald became an international interpreter of
the movement for prison reform work for which she is still warmly
remembered in Japan. She regarded herself as a missionary but was also
highly critical of much missionary endeavour, her own work being more
in the practical than spiritual realm. Her death in 1931 elicited
tributes from all over the world, particularly from Japan. Perhaps the
most fitting came from Arima Shirosuke, the prison governor with whom
Macdonald worked most closely. Reflecting on her life, Arima observed
that he thought it was her absolute conviction that every human being
was a child of God and her 'effortless' practice of that faith
that placed Macdonald 'beyond every prejudice' of religion,
race, or class. She was, he said, 'a heart at leisure from
This book throws light on Japanese-Canadian relations in the first
few decades of this century. Macdonald's career reveals the
cross-cultural influence of the YWCA in Japan, the role of the
Protestant churches there, and the evolution of prison reform in Japan
and the people involved in it.
Margaret Prang is professor emerita of the Department of History at the University of British Columbia. She is a former president of the Canadian Historical Association, founding co-editor of the journal of BC Studies, and the author of a biography of N.W. Rowell.
Illustrations Preface Acknowledgments 1. Pioneering Canadian Roots 2. Christ and the Empire of the Mikado 3. 'Women's Work for Women' 4. From Tokyo to Aberdeen: 'The Lady Student' 5. 'Grubbing at the Lingo' 6. The New Era of Taisho and 'the Woman Question' 7. 'God's Strange Leading' 8. Prisoners and Prisons 9. 'A Gentleman in Prison' 10. Tackling 'the Social Cosmos' 11. 'Jesus Was a Labouring Man' 12. 'Turning Earth's Smoothness Rough' 13. 'The Faith that Rebels' 14. From Noda to Geneva 15. 'Whether We Live or Whether We Die' Epilogue Notes Select Bibliography Index