Midori Shimanouchi Lederer Papers
Language of Materials
Born in California, Midori Shimanouchi Lederer (1923-2005) founded JASSI, Inc. (Japanese American Social Services), a non-profit organization based in New York City dedicated to addressing gaps in social services for the Japanese American community. In 1942, Shimanouchi and her family were forcibly removed from their home and incarerated with 110,00 other Nisei at the Central Utah Relocation Center, a concentration camp (euphemistically referred to as an internment camp) in Topaz, Utah. She later worked for director Michael Todd from 1952 to 1958 and as a press agent for Bill Doll and Company in New York City from 1959 to 1979. The papers document both her personal and professional life, including her activism efforts for the Japanese American community from the early 1980s until the late 1990s. Materials in the collection include correspondence, oral history transcripts, biographical and family history information, audio and videocassette tapes, photographs, and clippings. Of note are materials concerning Japanese forced removal and incarceration during World War II, including National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) records and scholarly publications that incorporate interviews of Shimanouchi Lederer.
Midori Shimanouchi Lederer (1923-2005) was the founder and president of Japanese American Social Services, Inc. (JASSI), which was established to address gaps in social and cultural service needs of the Japanese and Japanese American community. She founded JASSI when she was nearing retirement age in 1981. JASSI still remains the only East Coast organization that continues to provide a wide range of social services catering to Japanese and Japanese Americans.
Born in 1923 to immigrant parents in Fresno, California, Shimanouchi was the youngest of five children. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, she and her family were forcibly removed from their home and incarerated with 110,00 other Nisei at the Central Utah Relocation Center, a concentration camp (euphemistically referred to as an internment camp) in Topaz, Utah. Before World War II, Shimanouchi was a student at University of California at Berkeley. While at the camp, she appealed to the United States government to permit her to continue her studies. Her request was granted and she resumed her studies at Pace College in New York City in 1943.
In 1952, Shimanouchi became the secretary to film producer Michael Todd. Despite having no background or work-related experience in the film industry, she served multiple roles as office manager, secretary, chief assistant and diplomat, and was Michael Todd's production assistant for Around the World in 80 Days, which earned five Academy Awards. Following Todd's death in 1958, she worked for a year on a film being made in Spain by Michael Todd, Jr. In 1960 she joined the firm formed by Todd's press agent, Bill Doll and Company, a top New York firm of press agents at the time. As vice president of Bill Doll and Co., she handled publicity for Federico Fellini, Maurice Chevalier, Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong, Andre Watts and other prominent artists, which garnered her the title from media outlets as "Broadway's Number 1 Lady Press Agent."
At the height of her career as a publicist, Shimanouchi married Peter Lederer in 1966. Five years later, she retired and with the encouragement of her husband began to channel her energies toward community volunteer work. In 1971, Shimanouchi began volunteering at a drug rehabilitation agency at the Lower East Side Center, which specialized in helping elderly Chinese individuals experiencing drug dependence. She continued in aiding the senior community by volunteering for the Japanese American Help for the Aging (JAHFA) in 1979. After working with the Japanese American Senior Support Group, Shimanouchi founded JASSI in 1981 at the age of 58. With volunteers Kimi Shimizu and Cyril Nishimoto and a $5000 start-up fund, together they began providing counseling services to Japanese seniors from Shimanouchi's dining room table. With additional fundraising efforts, JASSI then secured the necessary funds to ensure all clients received services free of charge. Shimanouchi's philosophy in social services was to never turn anyone away in need of help. As a result, JASSI's services quickly grew to encompass a broad range of needs, including legal and immigration services, and assistance to restaurant workers, abused women and international students. JASSI's mission further expanded with Shimanouchi's creation of a support group in Japan.
In recognition of her community activism, Shimanouchi was the first Japanese American woman to receive the Ellis Island Honorary Award in 1992. The following year, she received an Outstanding Asian Americans Award from Governor Mario Cuomo, and a Justice in Action award from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1997. Her efforts to build bridges between social work for the aged in the United States and Japan also earned her The Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor of Japan. Shimanouchi was a founding member of the board of the Asian American Federation of New York and served on the boards of The Methodist Church Home for the Aged and the Japanese American Association of New York.
Shimanouchi died on March 9, 2005, at the age of 82.
The collection consists of the following series:
Series I: Personal and Biographical Materials, circa 1890-2004
Series II: Professional Files, 1958-2004
Series III: Audio / Visual Materials, circa 1980s - 2004
Folders within the series are arranged alphabetically.
Scope and Contents
The collection contains the personal and professional records of Midori Shimanouchi Lederer, the founding director of JASSI. Materials within the collection include photograph albums, biographical information, personal documents, news clippings, research notes, oral history tapes with transcripts, and collected videos.
Comprised primarily of photographs from the 1890s - 1980s, the albums document her family history in California, her professional career as a successful Hollywood publicist, and JASSI events. Materials related to her family's forced removal and incarceration during World War II include her personal NARA file and scholarly articles. The oral history cassette tapes in Series III are accompanied by transcripts in Series I, which detail Shimanouchi Lederer's major phases in life including childhood and family experience in California; incarceration at the Central Utah Relocation Center, a concentration camp in Topaz, Utah; her involvement in Japanese American activism; and the founding of JASSI.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by Midori Shimanouchi Lederer were transferred to New York University in 2011 by Peter D. Lederer and Mari Miya. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive. Please contact email@example.com.
Identification of item, date; Midori Shimanouchi Lederer Papers; TAM 596; box number; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Mori Miya and Peter D. Lederer in circa 2004, with an accretion donated in March 2020. The accession numbers associated with this collection are 2011.135 and 2020.023.
Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures
Audiovisual materials have not been preserved and may not be available to researchers. Materials not yet digitized will need to have access copies made before they can be used. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.
About this Guide
As documents formerly lacked categorization and chronology, order was imposed to create separation between personal and professional files, as well as folder level organization. The original arrangement of photo albums was retained. Binders and sticky backing were removed for preservation purposes and photos were re-sleeved. Many photos were identified by Peter Lederer in October 2012 and the information he supplied is denoted in bracket form on the back of each photo. The folders comprising the 2020 accretion were intellectually integrated into the collection's existing series and alphabetic order. In September 2020, narrative description and individual folder titles were edited to more accurately describe the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. In October 2020, Midori Shimanouchi Lederer's biographical note was updated to correct harmful language regarding drug use and dependence.
Researchers can access previous versions of the finding aid in our GitHub repository at https://github.com/NYULibraries/findingaids_eads/commits/master/tamwag/tam_596.xml.