May 7, 2015

This Sunday, families across the United States will celebrate Mother’s Day. In honor of the holiday we’ve compiled a set of photographs that attest to the remarkable strength and tenderness that Japanese American mothers displayed under the harsh conditions of WWII incarceration.

1. A young mother of Japanese ancestry arrives at Assembly center with 21-day-old baby. May 19, 1942. Stockton, California. Dorothea Lange Collection.


2. Families of two Shinto priests who were interned on December 8, 1942, immediately upon declaration of war. The mother at right has nine American born children and has been in the
United States ten years. The mother on the left has been in this country two years, and neither speak English. April 25, 1942. San Francisco, California. Dorothea Lange Collection. 

3. Knitting warm woolen clothing for her children against the coming winter, this Japanese mother, at the Topaz Relocation Center, takes advantage of the warm Utah sun. October 17, 1942. Topaz, Utah. National Archives and Records Administration Collection.

 4. Mother and child in the Rohwer concentration camp, Arkansas. 1943. Kuroishi Family Collection.

 5. This family of Japanese ancestry has just arrived in the center this morning. The mother and the children are waiting at the door of the room in the barracks to which they have been assigned.
The father is at the baggage depot where their bedding and clothing are unloaded and inspected for contraband. May 19, 1942. Stockton, California. Dorothea Lange Collection.

6. Hide Yasutake, her children May and Joe, and a Nisei soldier. Their barracks are in Block 4, Apartment C at the Mindoka concentration camp, Idaho. 1943. Yasutake Collection.

7. Mother and baby await evacuation bus. Posted on wall are schedules listing names of families, buses to which they are assigned, and times of departure. May 9, 1942. Centerville, California. Dorothea Lange Collection.

8. Mother and son in camp graveyard. This photo was taken at the Minidoka concentration camp’s graveyard. The rocks in the background were probably used for grave markers. The
tombstone shown here was more elaborate than most. 1944. Bain Collection.

9. Mother and two daughters (Kara and Amy) at Heart Mountain concentration camp, Wyoming. 1943. Kondo Collection.

10. Shigeko Kitamoto and her children (left to right): Frances, Jane, Frank, and Lilly Kitamoto in front of their barracks at the Minidoka concentration camp, Idaho. 1944. Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection.

To learn more about mothering in the camps, watch this segment from an interview with Fumiko Hayashida, whose evacuation photograph is perhaps the most widely recognized image of mothering from the WWII incarceration era.