Sutematsu Oyama scholarship

Seeking funding support for the new scholarship for women

34 million yen was raised to start the program as planned. Thank you for your support. Funding target for the second year is 36 million yen. (19%, 7 million yen has been raised as of 11/1/23)

Objective for Sutematsu Oyama scholarship

  • Sutematsu graduated from Vassar in 1882 as the first Japanese woman. Upon her return to Japan, she faced many challenges in the male dominant society.  
  • Akiko Kuno, great grand daughter of Sutematsu and a trustee of the Grew Bancroft Foundation, believes Japanese women faces similar challenges in Japan today.  She proposed the scholarship to promote future women leaders and to create a more equitable society. 
  • Sutematsu scholars will attend a leading American liberal arts college with a track record of training woman leaders.

Sutematsu Oyama (1860-1919):

  • In 1871, selected as a first woman to study in the US on the government scholarship.
  • In 1882, first Japanese woman to receive a US college degree (Vassar) and chosen to be a valedictorian.
  • After graduation, faced many challenges in the male dominant Japanese society.
  • Contributed as a leading figure in a diplomatic  circle in Tokyo and as a philanthropist.
  • As a registered nurse, contributed for a creation of a nursing training school.
  • Founding member of the first women’s college (currently known as Tsuda University) in Japan together with Umeko Tsuda.


"Why I support this scholarship" by Akiko Kuno "What I learned from a women's college" by alumni

Request for funding

The purpose of this scholarship is to build a society that respects the diversity of women in the 21st century, where women are not deprived of the opportunity to play an active role in their lives because they are women and are unable to fully demonstrate their abilities.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Sutematsu Oyama was a woman who studied in the United States as a member of the Iwakura Mission sent by the Meiji government with the order to “study hard to set a good example for women after returning to Japan.” However, what awaited Sutematsu upon her return to Japan after completing her 10 years of study was the old Japanese system of male chauvinism. She wondered, “Why did the Meiji government send me to the U.S. to study? How could I be of service to my country?” Despite her troubles and suffering, Sutematsu made the most of the knowledge she learned in the U.S. and her position in society to contribute to the improvement of women’s status throughout her life.

The women’s college in the United States where Sutematsu studied was established in a discriminatory social context in which American society refused to admit women to college.

I would like the Sutematsu Scholars to spend four years at a women’s liberal arts college with such a history and learn how to confront and overcome the gender gap and how leadership skills can be developed during their four years of study abroad. The thick wall of discrimination against women that Sutematsu attempted to overcome more than 100 years ago still persists in Japanese society. We hope that the “Sutematsu Scholars” will apply what they have learned during their four years of study in the U.S. to their work after they return to Japan and confront these barriers.

Studying at an American university requires a large amount of tuition fees. The Grew Bancroft Foundation would like to ask for your understanding of the purpose and objectives of the Sutematsu Scholarship and would like to ask for your generous support and donation.

For US based donors, donation to the Grew Bancroft Foundation (USA) Inc. is tax deductible as permitted by law under the 501(C)3 provisions of the US tax code. 

Donation in the U.S. Donation in Japan

Scholarship program

  • Students will attend one of the following colleges: Vassar College, Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Wellesley College.
  • We will select and provide a tuition for 1 Japanese student for 4 years.  If funding permits, we will provide up to $80,000 a year for 4 years.
  • Eligibility is the same as all other Grew Bancroft scholarship (Japanese nationality, high school requirement, family income limitation, etc.) and the candidates need to meet the gender orientation rule of the college.
  • Selection will be conducted in the same schedule performed by the Grew Bancroft foundation.

Sutematsu scholarship kickoff event (July 1)

We are planning a get together event for the founders, donors, alumni, and future sutematsu scholars. 
July 1, 14:00 – 16:00
International House of Japan (Tokyo)
– Why we are launching the Sutematsu scholarship
– Panel discussions among alumni of the US women’s colleges
– Current state of US women’s colleges
– Call for donation and scholarship application 
Sign up here

Founding members of Sutematsu Oyama scholarship

  • Akiko Kuno (Author “Unexpected Destinations,” great grand daughter of Sutematsu, former executive director of America-Japan Society, a trustee of the Grew Bancroft Foundation) “Unexpected Destinations” PDF version is available below as permitted by author/translator.
  • Grew Bancroft Foundation 


Unexpected Destinations (PDF)