Kaku Sudo was born in Japan on January 26, 1861 to Tauidi Sudo and Yeuri Funita. Before coming to the United States in 1891, she studied medicine in an American mission school in Yokohama. She then studied at the Philadelphia Institute of Electro-Therapy and later graduated in 1899 from Laura Memorial Woman’s College in Cincinnati.
Kaku returned to Japan, where she practiced medicine and did missionary work for five years. She and another Japanese doctor founded and ran the Negishi Hospital in a suburb of Yokohama. The Buddhists took control of the hospital forcing out Kaku and two other doctors. The doctors opened a dispensary, helped the poor with food and clothing and would visit the needy in their homes.
Upon her return to America in 1904, she settled in Westdale, New York. Although she did not practice medicine, she was active in aiding the community. Kaku and two other Japanese doctors traveled to Japan in 1907, returning with Kaku’s three nieces. In 1923, Kaku moved to St. Cloud, Florida where she made her home with her niece, Jean Yoshido and family on Connecticut Avenue. Having been baptized early in life into the Christian faith, she joined the First Baptist Church.
When Kaku received notification in 1939 her pension was cut off because she was not an American citizen, her continuing desire to become a citizen before she died grew stronger. Her attempts over the years to obtain citizenship were met with numerous difficulties. Her love for America and its people was sincere. Her two nephews, Kenjiro and Jun Yoshida, both born in America, fought in World War II; Kenjiro gave his life in 1944.
Revisions were finally made to the immigration laws and on July 7, 1953, Kaku at the age of 92 was granted citizenship in federal court in Orlando, Florida.
On June 4, 1963 Kaku passed away at the age of 102, having fulfilled her dream. She was only four feet tall but was strong in her faith and determination throughout her entire life. Kaku is buried in Mt. Peace Cemetery, St. Cloud, Florida.
By: Anza Bast
Sources: “Orlando Sentinel” January 31, 1959; “St. Cloud News” October 12, 1951; “The Times”, Richmond, VA, June 13, 1900; Mt. Peace Cemetery database
Image source: “Orlando Sentinel’ January 31, 1959