Spending her childhood in California and Japan, Yukiko Maki always felt as if she belonged in both cultures, at least until the outbreak of World War I, when her family fled the United States due to anti-Japanese sentiment. She returned to the U.S. for prep school and was encouraged by her headmistress to apply to Wellesley College.
She graduated from Wellesley with an economics degree and what she called “a firm foundation and spiritual stamina to face the ups and downs of life.” After returning to Japan, her family arranged for her to marry Kaoru Maki, a diplomat. He died in 1941 of tuberculosis, the same year that her brother and father both passed away. Traditionally, the male was the head of house, so without a male figure in her life, Yukiko had no choice but to become the breadwinner, a duty she had been longing to fulfill since her return to Japan.
Yukiko taught English at Tsuda College in Tokyo, one of the few colleges in the country to permit English classes. After five years of teaching, Yukiko realized a need for a strong cross-cultural exchange between the U.S. and Japan. She founded the Japan-America Women’s Group and several other international organizations that promote understanding between the two countries. She also worked with numerous Wellesley and Mount Holyoke graduates to found the College Women’s Association of Japan, an organization that gives young, female, Japanese students the opportunity to study abroad.
Before her retirement in 1972, Yukiko was named an American program officer by the Fulbright Commission and continued her dedication to the organizations that she had created. In 1976, Yukiko was recognized by the Japanese government for her commitment to world peace and education when she was awarded the Fourth Class of the Order of the Sacred Treasure.
Yukiko Maki died at the age of 87 on October 18, 1989.
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