Stories of Hope-Barbara Reynolds

1915-1935: Growing Up with Taro and Tak

Barbara Dorritt Leonard as an infant

On June 12, 1915, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Sterling and Minnetta Leonard welcomed their only child. While this daughter would one day be known by many titles ranging from wonder woman to kashin (spirit of flowers), for the time being she was known as Barbara Dorritt Leonard.

Barbara was born into an environment that stressed education and the value of literature. Her mother was a kindergarten teacher, and her father was a professor at the University of Wisconsin until his death in a drowning accident in 1931. 

                                                        Barbara’s parents,  Sterling and Minnetta Leonard

Barbara's exposure to Japan began at an early age through children’s books. One of her favorites was The Japanese Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins, and she would attempt to act out the Japanese customs of the book’s characters, Taro and Tak. Later, Barbara would claim that these fictional characters prevented her from taking part in the "Japanophobia" that existed in the United States during World War II. She would also be influenced by another children’s book, Editha’s Burglar by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which contained a pacifist message that would influence Barbara’s later commitment to nonviolent action.

Religion also influenced Barbara’s early life, although she would not become affiliated with a particular religion until decades later when she became a Quaker. These early influences included a mother who came from a strict Christian background and an uncle who taught college courses in Christian studies.

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