Women and Education
- The Edo Period
During the Edo Period, under the Tokugawa Shogunate, women of high-ranking samurai status continued the traditions of the Heian court and maintained a scholar-amateur position. Women from aristocratic and samurai elite families received cultural training similar to that of court ladies, and included calligraphy, music (koto, lute), painting and composing of poetry, as these skills were requisite in any cultivated aristocratic woman, or any woman of the merchant class seeking a good marriage.
The great majority of women who achieved celebrity status as poets came from the lower samurai classes or from the middle class. Many were also courtesans, a vocation that allowed women the opportunity to display their talents to the public and to achieve a reasonably independent lifestyle. There were different levels of accomplishment within this profession, low-class prostitutes at the bottom, and highly skilled entertainers (tayu) at the highest levels who had received years of training in music, dance, the tea ceremony, calligraphy and the art of poetry composition. A Japanese man seeking a courtesan as a companion valued these cultural traditions that required a woman of merit to be educated.
Courtesan reading a book
"The greater learning for women" in Edo