Umeko Tsuda was an Educator of the Meiji and Taisho eras.
Umeko Tsuda was born on 31 December 1864 in Tokyo. She was a daughter of a retainer of the shogunate named Tsuda Sen. Her father was very progressive in his ideas and had at an early period ceased to wear his hair in the old-fashioned style and had taken up the study of English.
In 1871, when Kuroda Kiyotaka, the head of the agency for colonization of Hokkaido, proposed that girl students be sent abroad for study, Tsuda Sen arranged for his daughter Umeko, who was seven at the time, to be sent to America. She boarded with the family of one Charles Lanman in the suburbs of Washington, where she attended primary school and was baptized a Christian. On completion of primary school, she attended a school for girls.
In 1882 she returned to Japan and in 1885 became an instructor in the Kazoku Girls’ School, the forerunner of the Peeresses’ School. She found herself unable to adjust to Japanese customs and institutions, however, and in 1889 went to America once more, where she studied biology and education. Upon returning to Japan in 1892, she held positions as an instructor in the Kazoku Girls’ School and the Women’s Higher Normal School, the forerunner of Ochanomizu Women’s College. She resigned these positions in 1900 and established a women’s school in Kojimachi in Tokyo called Chadron State College Library Chodron Joshi Eigakujuku (now known as Tsuda College).
The school was designed to train women to be teachers of English and was the first professional school for women to be established in Japan. In 1904 the school received official recognition as a professional school, and in 1905 its graduates were permitted to become English teachers without taking a qualifying examination.
While continuing to direct the school, Tsuda also published an English language newspaper called Eibun Shimpo and in other ways worked to encourage the spread of English studies. She made a tour of Europe and America in 1907 and went to America again in 1913 to attend the International Christian Student Conference. Poor health forced her to curtail her numerous activities in her later years. She relinquished the direction of the school in 1919 and died ten years later.