Introduction

Leaving China & the
Journey Across the
Pacific

Cultural Traditions

Women in Early
Chinatowns

Anti-Chinese Violence
& Women's Resistance

Chinese Women at
Work

Educational
Opportunities

Women in Cultural
Work

The Great Depression
and War

Conclusion

Additional Resources


 

 

WOMEN IN CULTURAL WORK

The Eaton Sisters

Edith Maude Eaton (Sui Sin Far).
Voices From Gaps, Women Artists and Writers of Color

Winifred Eaton (Onato Watanna).
Current Literature, February 1902

Edith Maude Eaton (or Sui Sin Far) (1865-1914) and Winifred Eaton (or Onoto Watanna) (1875-1954) were the first known Chinese American women authors. They launched the field of Asian American literature.

Bi-racial sisters of Chinese-British descent, they both wrote during the second half of the nineteenth and the first decades of the twentieth century. Each took a pen name which identified them as Asian American. Edith wrote under the name Sui Sin Far and claimed her Chinese descent, while her sister Winifred, fearful of anti-Chinese discrimination, professionally identified herself as a Japanese American and wrote as Onoto Watanna.

Sui Sin Far’s powerful short stories of the difficult lives of Chinese immigrant women and the personal impact of anti-Chinese laws are collected in Mrs. Spring Fragrance and Other Stories. Onata Watanna may be best known for Miss Nume of Japan, as well as eleven other novels and Hollywood scripts that had mass popular appeal.

Both Sui Sin Far and Onato Watanna wrote openly about the lives of women, of race, of bi-racial lives, and of attitudes toward Asian and Asian American women. Their perspectives, based on personal experience of discrimination, displacement, and migration, undercut outsiders’ stereotypical portraits of Chinese and Japanese identity.

Sui Sin Far, likely the first published Chinese American woman journalist and author of short stories, used pointed irony to challenge racial stereotypes. 49

(Click here to read an excerpt from Sui Sin Far's Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian)