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Emily Light Biography 1951 Thesis Barbed Wire Photos
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Editor's Note: The following are what I have been able to compile of Ms. Light's years before and after the four years spent teaching in the internment camps at Topaz, Jerome and Tule Lake. 


   Emily Underhill Light was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, in 1905 [death certificate]. She graduated from Montclair Normal School (now Montclair State University) in Montclair, New Jersey, 1926, majoring in kindergarten education [1926 Montclair yearbook]. She taught elementary school in Hackensack [1927 Hackensack City Directory] before graduating from the University of California Berkeley in 1942 with a degree in Social Theory [1942 UC Berkeley yearbook]. 

   She had been a resident of International House at Berkeley [from Asheville Citizen-Times article from I House] and when her Japanese-American friends were taken to internment camps in 1942, she became an elementary school teacher in the camps, for shorter periods at Jerome and Topaz, but lived and taught at the Tule Lake, California, internment camp from September of 1942 until the close of the camp in 1946 [Scrapbooks One and Two herein]. 

   At Tule Lake, Ms. Light pursued her career and her friendships, recording the joys of weddings, births, hobbies, arts, religious activities and recreation, as well as the sorrows of her friends through deaths, separation from family members, the taking of their physical properties, the betrayals of their government and the uncertainties of what the future held for them [from scrapbooks]. 

   After leaving Tule Lake in 1946, she taught elementary school in the San Francisco Bay area until her retirement. She was an active alumna of International House through the 1940s and -50s and maintained an active correspondence with many fellow alumni for four decades [info from I House and Christmas letter]

   After breaking her hip in 1970, she felt she should live closer to family on the East Coast. She left El Cerrito, California, in 1979, and moved to Highland Farms, a retirement center near Asheville, North Carolina, that she had discovered during a visit to the area with long-time friends. She continued correspondence with friends, found a church home, began learning about the Appalachian culture, took ceramics and exercise classes, played shuffleboard, went on outings and continued her study of the Japanese language [Christmas letter and Asheville C-T article]. 

   She resided at Highland Farms only a few months before suffering an aneurysm that left her in a coma. After nine months, during which time she lay so rigid that her Achilles tendon contracted, her jaws locked and her arm became twisted and drawn, she awakened and called out a greeting to another person in the room. She later stated that she never doubted she would get well [Christmas letter and Asheville C-T]. In the same spirit that had led her to this point in her life, she endured several surgeries to relieve contracted muscles and tendons in her arms and legs followed by extensive physical therapy. 

   She eventually was able to walk with a cane. She resumed correspondence with friends who had not known what had happened to her and continued her study of Japanese [Christmas letter and Asheville C-T]. During a consultation with one of her doctors, she remarked that she felt she was saved for a reason, even though she couldn't decide what it was. He answered, "Isn't it enough for you to be an example to others that no one should give up hope?" [Asheville C-T]. She lived another twelve years after her aneurysm and died in North Carolina in the late spring of 1991 [death certificate].
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