By: Imani K. Browne
Throughout Women’s History Month, RLS Media has been highlighting influential women in New Jersey. Today we focus on Mary Yamashita Nagao, a Japanese-American woman who lived through World War II.
Nagao was interned in Owens Valley, California, at the Manzanar Relocation Center under Executive Order 9066. Despite the internment, she found a job as a social worker and a liaison between the camp authorities and those being interned.
She served as an advocate for Japanese-Americans' rights, using her skills in an attempt to better conditions for herself and those around her.
As reported by Rowan University and the New Jersey Historical Commission, Nagao and her family relocated to Upper Deerfield Township in Cumberland County, New Jersey, near the end of the war.
She began work at Seabrook Farms and eventually became a production forewoman and a union representative of the Amalgamated Food and Meat Cutter’s Union, Local No. 56. This union represented frozen food and cannery workers residing in southern New Jersey, many of whom were immigrants.
Nagao was the president of the volunteer advisory group to the Cumberland County Office on Aging and served on both the Atlantic Electric Company Roundtable Committee and the Advisory Board of the Retired Senior Voluntary program, according to Rowan University and the New Jersey Historical Committee.
She was awarded the national JACL Silver Pin for her efforts and work on New Jersey’s Japanese-American community.
In 1984, she was celebrated numerous times, including being celebrated as an Outstanding Citizen of Cumberland County.
INFORMATION/IMAGE CREDIT: Rowan University and the New Jersey Historical Commission