As superintendent of Manzanar Children’s Village, Lillian Matsumoto and her staff took care of more than 100 children, including orphans. (Dorothea Lange/WRA/National Archives)

Social work leader Lillian Iida Matsumoto will be honored posthumously with induction into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction this weekend.

Matsumoto, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 101, was superintendent of Manzanar Children’s Village during World War II. She took care of more than 100 children following the government’s internment of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, including orphans, all of whom were sent to Manzanar. Manzanar was the only camp to house an orphanage.

Matsumoto and her staff packed up cribs, bedding, diapers and a piano from Shonien, a home for Japanese children in Los Angeles, and escorted the children in a caravan of two buses and a van from Los Angeles to Manzanar.

Matsumoto was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on Feb. 4, 1913. When her father got a job with The Nichi Bei Times in San Francisco, her family, including three younger siblings, relocated to Berkeley. At the age of 16, she entered UC Berkeley for undergraduate studies and later graduated with a graduate certificate from the School of Social Welfare.

A Children’s Village reunion was held in 2007 at the Japanese American National Museum. Seated, from left: Annie Sakamoto, Elizabeth Matsuno, Lillian Matsumoto, Susie Watamura, Mary Matsuno Miya, Lillian Yoshiko Bonner and Dennis Tojo. Standing, from left: Sharon Kodama (Shizuko Okazaki), Akira Isozaki, Tamotsu Isozaki, Karyl Matsumoto, Celeste Loi Teodor, Tak Matsuno and Ken (Yoshikura) Bergren. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)

She was initially barred from the program because of her ethnicity, but she contested the decision and became the only Japanese American student in the department.

In 1998, Matsumoto was presented with the Outstanding Alumna award by the Japanese American Women Alumnae of UC Berkeley.

Lillian Matsumoto and her daughter Karyl, former mayor of South San Francisco and one of the orphans at Children’s Village. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Hokubei Mainichi)

Since 2002, the Hall of Distinction has recognized over 100 individuals who have made outstanding contributions to social work and social welfare in California, with a particular emphasis on practitioners, advocates, and educators.

The California Social Work Hall of Distinction operates as a committee of the California Social Welfare Archives, which — with support from the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work — maintains oral histories of social work leaders, and collections of historically significant documents in the development of social welfare in the state.

The 2021 virtual induction ceremony will be held on Sunday, Oct. 17, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. PST and welcomes community members to attend. General admission is $15 and student admission is free with registration. More registration information can be found at:

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