(Excerpts taken from http://www.flyingcarp.net/2009/04/be-strong/ and wikipedia.)
"In a world dominated by men, a tiny 97 year-old living legend is the highest ranking woman in judo history. She is also the last living disciple of Jigoro Kano, judo’s founder." (Kano is also known to be the originator of the modern belt ranking system).
"In 1934 Keiko Fukuda was preparing for marriage, like most young women in Japan. Then she met Jigoro Kano and radically altered her life path. She gave up marriage, family, and her home-land to pursue her life destiny. In 1966 she immigrated to the U.S., a single woman with an opportunity to make a living with her vocation, judo. Her move to the U.S. caught light of rank injustice within the Japanese judo system. With the help of American women’s rights activist, judo students, she began her struggle up the male dominant ladder of judo."
"Fukuda was born on April 12, 1913, in Tokyo, Japan. As a youth, she learned the arts of calligraphy, flower arrangement, and the tea ceremony; typical pursuits for a woman in Japan at that time. Fukuda's grandfather, Fukuda Hachinosuke, had been a samurai and master of Tenjin Shinyō-ryū jujutsu, and he had taught that art to Kanō Jigorō, founder of judo and head of the Kodokan. Kanō had taught female students as early as 1893 (Sueko Ashiya). He personally invited the young Fukuda to study judo—an unusual gesture for that time—as a mark of respect for her grandfather. She began training in judo in 1935, as one of only 24 women training at the Kodokan.
Despite her conventional upbringing, Fukuda felt close to judo through memories of her grandfather, and one day went with her mother to watch a judo training session. A few months later, she decided to begin training for herself. Her mother and brother supported this decision, but her uncle was opposed to the idea. Her mother and brother had thought that Fukuda would eventually marry one of the judo practitioners, but she ended up never marrying, instead becoming a judo expert herself."