Exhibit in San Francisco recognizes contributions of Chinese-American women

World Today

Women’s contributions – whether that be in historical context, business or politics — have often been overlooked. Just look at the history books and also the percentage of women in at the executive level and in government.

But a new exhibit in San Francisco is aiming to ensure California Chinese-American women’s accomplishments are respected. CGTN’s Mark Niu reports.

At the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum, women’s contributions are not forgotten in the exhibit Towards Equality. 

When asked if she’s ever seen another exhibit solely dedicated to Chinese-American women, museum executive director Jane Chin says she does recall one back in the 80’s. 

“There’s a Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky and I clearly believe that, said Jane Chin, Executive Director of the Chinese Historical Society. ” 

The exhibit here even recognizes the very first American born Chinese woman in San Francisco – Chew Fong Law in 1869.   

It also recognizes the struggles that followed, including in 1884 when Mary Tape – a Chinese immigrant sued the San Francisco Board of Education for refusing to enroll her daughter in school.  

The California Supreme Court ruled in Mary’s favor, stating that denying her daughter access would be unconstitutional.  

Kitty Tsui reads a line from her poem: “My popo grandmother, I burn incense and make offerings. I write this poem for all to know your life, your work.” 

Kitty Tsui’s grandmother – Kwan Ying Lin– a famous Cantonese Opera Singer who toured throughout North America and the world — is being featured at the exhibit. 

Kitty points to a playbill of her mother’s performance from the 1920’s that was found in the archives of the Chinese Historical Society.  

She also shows us a childhood photo of her with her grandmother. 

It’s quite appropriate since Kitty – an activist and author of the Words of a Woman Who Breathes Fire — is also featured in the exhibit too. 

So like grandmother, like granddaughter. 

“This is such an important exhibit because we as women and as Chinese-American women, we are often erased, the victims of stereotypes,” said Tsui. 

The aim of the exhibit is to share the diverse stories of Chinese-American women with both Californians and visitors from around the world. 

“I was astounded that they (Chinese women) were outnumbered by a ratio of ten to one, and what tough resilient individuals they must have been to come here and to thrive,” said visitor Carmen Farrell while observing the exhibit. 

Generations that followed would certainly thrive. 

At the exhibit, you can read about Margaret Gee, who during World War II went from a welder to pilot and later became a physicist.  

Pioneers like Gee paved the way for others to break barriers in the world of science and technology. 

On the wall, you’ll see a write-up about Fei-Fei Li, the former head of Artificial Intelligence at Google and now Stanford University AI department head. 

Philanthropists are honored here too – like Betty Chinn — a China native who earned the Presidential Citizen’s Award for her tireless work to cook meals and deliver them to the homeless nearly every single day. 

 “’I’m impressed with what women were able to accomplish. Being put down, the activism still came through,” said Leone Farrell, visiting the museum from Vancouver. “And they were able to advance their cause.” 

They are causes taken on so that future generations will have more opportunities to both succeed and take up causes of their own.