This young woman, with the American first name and hairstyle, was born Kiyo Natori. She was born in Seattle, Washington on February 16, 1912 to Japanese parents Kiku and Kenjiro Natori. Like many non-European immigrants she would adopt a more Americanized name. “Mabel” was the choice. She appears as Kiyo in the 1920 and 1930 census records and lived with her family in Washington state. Her brother, Kikuo Natori, who was 10 in the 1920 census of Seattle, became Elmer Natori, a 20 year old, in the 1930 census. A younger sister was only known as “Amy” in the censuses, although she likely had a Japanese name as well.
In this photo of the 1930 class of Auburn High School, Mabel was 18. The family lived in Webstone, Pierce county, Washington near Auburn, which was in King county. The first connection to this photo and the census records of Kiyo Natori was a 1931 marriage license. Mabel Kiyo Natori (aged 19) married Paul S. Shigaya (aged 40) on August 26th in Seattle. Later, from her obituary, we learn that this was an arranged and apparently happy marriage. This young lady was definitely bridging the gap between old world and new.
After her marriage, Mabel spent at least one year at the University of Washington. She was a pledge, in 1932, for Fuyo-Kai, a Japanese Women’s Student Club according to the Tyee Yearbook. Paul and Mabel also appeared in the Seattle City Directory in 1931, 1932, and 1935. Paul was listed as a physician. The couple had not yet had children and would remain childless for reasons unknown. By 1940, Paul and Mabel (or Seikichi and Kiyo as they would have been known in Japan) lived on Beacon Ave. in Seattle. Paul was 46 and Mabel 28. He was a physician/surgeon.
And then came World War II. Like 120,000 other Japanese Americans, the Shigaya and Natori families were moved into one of many isolated Relocation camps. They were moved to Idaho in 1942. And many of those, including Mabel, were Americans by birth. Ironically, Paul still had to fill out a WWII Draft Registration Card! According to the “US, Final Accountability Rosters of Evacuees at Relocation Centers, 1942-1946” the Shigaya’s were moved to Idaho in September of 1942 and released in June of 1944. I have no knowledge of their personal experiences in the camps; I’m sure the family has stories.
The next thing we know about Mabel’s life, following the paper trail, is that her father died in 1951 in Seattle. During the relocation years her parents were already in their seventies. Her father would live to be almost 80. A passenger manifesto of an airline flight from Japan to Honolulu in 1955 indicate that Mabel and Paul may have visited relatives in Japan.
Mabel’s husband Paul died in October of 1973. He was more than 20 years her senior, so it’s unsurprising that she would outlive him. Nine years after his death, Mabel remarried at age 70! In August of 1982 she married Haruaki Ida in Seattle. Through that marriage she gained step-children and step-grandchildren giving her her first experience with motherhood (or at least grandmotherhood.)
That may have been the end of our discovery if it were not for Mabel’s wonderful obituary in the Seattle Times. Mable Shigaya Ida died at age 86 in 1998. From this obituary we learn that she:
- had an arranged marriage
- earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in home economics after the war at the encouragement of her husband Paul
- taught at the University of Washington for 20 years, including redesigning the cheerleading outfits!
- was active in St. Peter’s Episcopal church and in fund raising for Children’s Hospital
- loved playing golf
I particularly enjoyed her niece’s quote “She was kind of a feminist in her own way, she saw the dichotomy between her generation and the one coming up. She wasn’t completely able to go that new way but provided a silent support for people having their own opinions and being able to articulate what they thought or felt.”
Mabel Kiyo’s story is a fascinating one, and I’m so happy to get to share it here.