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


 

 

THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND ENTERING WAR II

Lai Yee Guey, her son Art Guey, and Nellie Tom Quock lead a picket line demanding the end of the sale of scrap iron to Japan.
The Oregon History Project, CN 007436

Chinese Americans shared the economic crash that affected all Americans during the Great Depression of the 1930s – but they and their extended families faced additional trauma in China. In 1931, Japan occupied the northeastern China province of Manchuria and, in 1937, moved down the coast, brutally invading other cities. Since the late 19th century, Japan had desired an empire in East Asia, particularly in China. Following the first World War, Japan was granted control of territory in Northwestern China, and continued to expand its ambitions. In 1937, with an official declaration of war, Japan invaded China. Concerned by Japan’s increasing expansion in Asia and troubled by the horrors it committed during its occupation of China, American leaders rightly feared the conflict would draw the United States into war. 52

Although Chinese American women faced unemployment, the loss of their homes, and acute poverty, during the 1930s they continued to assist their sisters on the other side of the Pacific.  Organizations formed across the United States – in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and Portland to distribute information, raise money, and work with the Red Cross in China. During the war between China and Japan in the 1930s and 1940s, Chinese American women from all walks of life entered the public arena to work on behalf of the war effort in China.

Women’s Benevolent Association
The banner reads: Chinese Women New Movements Association
Steering Committee on Women’s Issues
Women’s Benevolent Association in New York.
Museum of Chinese in America, Red Binder 22. Chou, Marilyn Collection

“Due to the fact that [the Chinese Women’s Association] is the only Chinese women’s organization in existence here in New York, we have often been called upon to participate in all receptions of importance. Ever since we succeeded in raising that record sum of $30,000 during the year 1932 for the relief of Chinese war and flood refugees, the importance of this Association has grown considerably, and its name is known far and wide.”
--- Theodora Chan Wang, Chairman of Chinese Women’s Association 53