Stories of Hope-Hiroshima Maidens
Maidens N - O
Tomoko Nakabayashi's father urged her to travel to America for the reconstructive surgery. She showed little interest in becoming a Hiroshima Maiden; she was unsure about Americans. Tomoko's face had no scars but her arms were severly burned. She lost movement in both arms and wore gloves in public to hide the scars. The more time she spent in America, the more comfortable she became in this new land.
Her American host family made it possible for her to attend the Parsons School of Design on a full scholarship until 1957. However, Tomoko’s life would soon come to a tragic end. In mid-June 1956, she decided to get a surgical procedure to remove a white scar from the inside of her arm. The surgery went well, but when Tomoko came out of the surgery she stopped breathing. The doctors put her in an iron lung, but they were unable to revive her. Tomoko passed away in New York City. This came as a shock to all of the Hiroshima Maidens. Before Tomoko passed, the doctors were able to complete one hundred fifteen surgeries. Although the Maidens were upset about Tomoko’s passing, they decided to continue with the last twenty surgeries.
Shigeko Niimoto, October 27, 1956
While on the way to the Hiroshima Girls’ Commercial High School, Shigeko Niimoto was caught in the path of the atomic bomb. The kimono she was wearing was shredded from the waist up. Shigeko’s mother was left scared and desperate; she looked three days for her daughter. When Shigeko’s mother found her daughter, she had major burns and severe facial deformities, as well as the loss of movement in her hands and arms. Shigeko was given the nickname “Red Devil” due to her burned flesh.
When Shigeko came to America, she received several skin grafts on her face, so she looked more like herself instead of the “Red Devil”. Her experiences in America were very enjoyable. After six months back in Japan, Shigeko returned to America and lived with Norman Cousins. He enrolled Shigeko in the Waterbury School of Nursing. She was only in school one year and then went on to various jobs.
Shigeko fell in love and soon became pregnant. Sadly, Shigeko’s lover left her. On September 21st, 1962, she gave birth to a baby boy. Now she was a single mother going from job to job in both the United States and Japan. At one point, she got a job at St. Lukes Hospital as a nurse’s aid. Eventually, Shigeko settled on working as a home-care nurse.
The experiences caused Shigeko to become active in the anti-nuclear movement. On August 6th, 1958, she participated in a demonstration against nuclear weapons. In 1983, she wrote an autobiography called Go On Shigeko . The book was published in Japan. During 2007, Shigeko gave speeches about the movie "White Light/Black Rain," and about the danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In 2008, Shigeko lived in California and continued to work on creating awareness about the dangers of the atomic bomb.