Toshi Miyagawa 1865–1935
Toshi Miyagawa, class of 1893, was the first international student from outside of North America to attend Mount Holyoke. She arrived in South Hadley in 1890 and was a member of the last class to graduate before the Mount Holyoke Seminary officially became Mount Holyoke College.
Miyagawa, who during her childhood was called Martha, remained in contact with the College and her peers by responding to alumnae surveys and through letters to classmates. Shared here are some major events from her life, many gleaned from such documents, which are now housed in the College’s Archives and Special Collections.
September 15, 1865
Toshi Miyagawa was born in China on September 15, 1865. It is unknown what name she was given by her biological parents.
Taken in by Mr. John T. Gulick and Mrs. Emily Gulick
July 1, 1869
While Mr. and Mrs. Gulick were traveling from Peking to Kalgan, China, in the summer of 1869, they met a couple who could not afford to care for their three-or four-year-old daughter, who was malnourished and recovering from a serious illness. The Gulick’s had recently lost a child during birth and wanted to take care of the young girl. The Gulick’s took in the child and named her Martha.
Family Visit to Mount Holyoke College
March 2, 1872
In 1872, Mr. and Mrs. Gulick visited the United States with their young foster daughter. Mr. Gulick had attended Williams College, which had a close connection with Mount Holyoke College. The family visited the (then) Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, and Mr. Gulick’s second wife wrote in a 1904 letter to Anne C. Edwards of Mount Holyoke College that Emily Gulick “was so pleased with the institution that she always after cherished the hope that her beloved Martha might receive her education there.”
Begins Studying at Kobe School for Girls
March 2, 1878
Mr. and Mrs. Gulick had moved to Japan while Martha lived with family friends of the Gulicks in China. When Mrs. Emily Gulick passed away in 1875, Mr. Gulick sent for his foster daughter to come live with him in Japan. In 1878, Martha was enrolled in the Kobe School for Girls, which was established by Mr. Gulick’s fellow missionaries.
Graduates from Kobe School for Girls, Enrolls in Ferris Seminary
March 2, 1882
Martha graduated from Kobe School for Girls in 1882, and began studying at Ferris Seminary that same year.
March 2, 1883
Martha finished at Ferris Seminary in 1883 and began teaching English and music at her alma mater, Kobe School for Girls.
Begins Studying at Mount Holyoke College
September 1, 1890
After she stopped teaching at Kobe School for Girls in 1887, arrangements were made with alumnae in Japan for her to study at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. At a time between 1887 and 1890, she wanted to have citizenship in Japan, where she had spent her childhood and young adulthood. She was adopted by Mr. Miyagawa and gained Japanese citizenship and began going by the name “Toshi Miyagawa.” Little is known about Mr. Miyagawa and his connection to Toshi Miyagawa. She continued to use the last name “Miyagawa” until she married in 1899.
Graduates from Mount Holyoke College
June 22, 1893
On June 22, 1893, Miyagawa graduated from Mount Holyoke College (which had received its college charter on January 31, 1893) with a B.L. degree. In the months following graduation, Miyagawa traveled west to Oberlin, Minneapolis, Winnipeg, and Vancouver before making her way to Japan, where she spent the rest of her life. She returned to teaching English and music at Kobe College– renamed from Kobe School for Girls.
Marries Reverend Hirata
December 11, 1899
On December 11, 1899, Miyagawa married Reverend Yoshimichi Hirata and retired from teaching at Kobe College. The couple had five children: son Yoshitoshi in 1900, son Yoshitrugu in 1902, daughter Atsu in 1903, daughter Michi in 1905, and son Saburo in 1909. Michi passed away in 1907, and Saburo passed away in 1911. Although Miyagawa did not attend Mount Holyoke College class reunions, she kept in contact with her Mount Holyoke classmates through letters, many of which are housed in the College’s Archives and Special Collections. Due to her failing eyesight, Miyagawa’s husband and children read the letters she received aloud, and they transcribed her responses. In one letter to her classmates she wrote, “Don’t you wish that ‘the glorious ‘93’ could gather once more in that old lecture hall and fight our battles o’er again? You do not know how your letters make me wish we were all together again at Mount Holyoke and digging again, though the gold lay deep in the mountain.”
Survives the Great Kantō earthquake
September 1, 1923
On September 1, 1923, there was an earthquake in Tokyo and Yokohama, that also caused large fires and firestorms, and the Hirata family’s house burned down. Miyagawa and her family all survived. 105,385 deaths were confirmed in the earthquake and resulting fires. Another approximately 40,000 people were reported missing and presumed dead.
January 8, 1935
On January 8, 1935, Miyagawa passed away in her home. Her husband had passed away on December 28, 1934, and the couple was buried in a joint funeral in January of 1935.
–By Emily Krakow ’20
April 20, 2018