Beate Gordon (bottom left) with her family in Japan.(KYODO)

If you’d like to be humbled as you move into the new year, I highly suggest checking out the Times obit of Beate Sirota Gordon, who passed away on Sunday at 89.

Born to Russian Jewish parents, Gordon was separated from her parents during World War II while they were in Japan and she was in college in the States. Fluent in many languages, Gordon arrived in Japan as part of General Douglas MacArthur’s occupying forces. It was there she became involved in helping draft the new Japanese constitution, which she rarely spoke about until decades later.

Her work — drafting language that gave women a set of legal rights pertaining to marriage, divorce, property and inheritance that they had long been without in Japan’s feudal society — had an effect on their status that endures to this day.

“It set a basis for a better, a more equal society,” Carol Gluck, a professor of Japanese history at Columbia University, said Monday in a telephone interview. “By just writing those things into the Constitution — our Constitution doesn’t have any of those things — Beate Gordon intervened at a critical moment. And what kind of 22-year-old gets to write a constitution?”

Check out the rest here. Great story.

Beate Gordon, Feminist Heroine in Japan, Dies at 89 [NYT]