From Exclusion to Empowerment: Chinese American Women in New England
The exhibit opens on Friday, October 17, 2008, and runs through February 26, 2009, and will be on view in the Schlesinger Library’s first floor exhibit area during regular library hours: Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Within traditional Confucian society, family and family hierarchy were important organizing principles. Woman’s place was in the home under the guidance and protection of the males in her family. Upon immigration to the United States, Chinese women often found it necessary to work outside the home in order to provide economic support for the family. Over time, the role and influence of Chinese women grew incrementally. At first she may have worked as a secretary or cashier, or assumed a position in a family business such as a laundry or restaurant. Once outside the home, Chinese American women were subject to the racist attitudes that produced the most singularly discriminatory immigration laws in the history of the United States, the Page Act of 1875 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
World War II opened new possibilities in factories or offices and eventually greater educational opportunity allowed Chinese American women to enter into the professional worlds of law, education, or medicine. New roles continued to develop with the changing socio-political environment that included the equalization of immigration policy, the loosening of homeland ties, and the wider acceptance of women acting outside the home—all have contributed to the increasingly diversified roles of Chinese American women.
As participants in the Chinese American Women Oral History Project, co-sponsored by the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library and the Chinese Historical Society of New England, several women reveal their experiences in traversing this ever changing landscape. Exhibited here are audio and video clips, artifacts, correspondence, and books that document the journey.
A reception—including a lecture by Jennie Chin Hansen, president of AARP—is scheduled for Monday, December 1, at 4 p.m. in the Radcliffe Gymnasium, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts.