Midori Shimanouchi Lederer (1923-2005), founder of Japanese American Social Services, Inc. (JASSI), was a film producer’s assistant, publicist and later community activist who worked to fill gaps in social services for the aged in the United States and Japan. Born and raised in Fresno, California, Shimanouchi was interned with her family in Topaz, Utah after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. A student at UC Berkeley at the time, she appealed to the U.S. government and was granted permission to resume her studies at Pace College in 1943. In 1952, Shimanouchi became the secretary of renowned film producer Michael Todd and eventually served as Todd’s production assistant for Around the World in 80 Days (1956), which earned 5 Oscars. In 1960, she joined Bill Doll and Company, a top New York-based firm of press agents. Known for inventive marketing strategies, she eventually rose to partner and vice president. In 1966, Shimanouchi married Peter Lederer and with his encouragement, retired in 1971 and began channeling her energies toward community volunteer work. Throughout the 1970s, she volunteered at a drug rehabilitation agency at the Lower East Side Center, the Japanese American Help for the Aging, and the Japanese American Senior Support Group. She founded JASSI in 1981, and with volunteers Kimi Shimizu and Cyril Nishimoto and a small start-up fund, began providing free counseling services to Japanese seniors at her home. JASSI’s services quickly grew to encompass legal and immigration services; assistance to restaurant workers, abused women and international students; and a support group in Japan. In addition, she served on the boards of the Asian American Federation of New York, The Methodist Church Home for the Aged, and the Japanese American Association of New York. Shimanouchi has been the recipient of many honors in recognition of her work, including the Ellis Island Honorary Award, Justice in Action Award, and The Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor of Japan. The Midori Shimanouchi Lederer Papers contain photographs, correspondence, oral history transcriptions, videos and cassette tapes that document Shimanouchi’s professional career and many contributions as long-time volunteer community worker within the Japanese and Japanese American community.
To learn more about the contents of the Midori Shimanouchi Lederer Papers, located at the NYU Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, view the collection’s finding aid.