Title: ” Girls’ College Registration Certificate.” Collection: Shinobu Family fonds. Repository: Nikkei National Museum. Accession Number: 2018.12.3.1.1. Year: 1941.
BURNABY — The Shinobu Family fonds at the Nikkei National Museum contains records detailing the lives of the Shinobu family.
The family included Saburo Shinobu, a community leader who led the fight to obtain the franchise for Japanese Canadian First World War veterans; Sada Shinobu, a seamstress and artist who founded the Girls’ College of Practical Arts; and their three children. These materials are undergoing digitization as part of the Tegami: Reaching Out Across Distance project, thanks to generous support from the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre’s B.C. History Digitization Program.
Sada Shinobu was born in Japan in 1889. She was a gifted seamstress and attended a domestic arts school in Japan before working as a teacher of domestic arts. One of her most prominent needlework students was Princess Nashimoto, a member of the Japanese Royal Family, who kept in touch long after Sada had emigrated.
In 1917, Sada moved to Canada to join her husband, Saburo. In August 1937, Sada established the Girls’ College of Practical Arts at 302 Alexander St. in Vancouver, B.C.
This featured item is a certificate of registration from 1941, certifying Sada to teach dressmaking, needlecraft, and kindred arts at the college. Serving as principal, Sada taught dressmaking, embroidery, flower arranging, and etiquette to Nisei women. In a brochure describing the college, Sada says, “the little school, which was hoped would be of assistance to a few of the young girls growing up in the community, has expanded beyond my fondest dreams and is a recognized institution in the city.”
Sada ran the school from 1937 until 1942 when she and her family were forcibly uprooted and sent to the Kaslo internment camp. She would continue to offer sewing and ikebana lessons in Kaslo and later in Toronto.
You can see Sada Shinobu’s sketches and sewing patterns on display as part of the heritage corner of the Washi 和紙 exhibit at the Nikkei National Museum until Feb. 25, 2023. Explore more from the museum at www.nikkeimuseum.org.