Oral History Project

The Chinese American Women Oral History Project, currently a joint enterprise with the Chinese Historical Society of New England, has recorded the life stories of over 20 women who immigrated to the United States prior to 1965. Usually over sixty years of age when the record was created, these women represent a wide range of experience and include a lawyer, a nurse, restaurant workers, community activists, factory workers, a librarian, wives and mothers. They speak about family traditions, cooking, access to education, growing up in China, finding work and careers, and facing the challenges posed by American culture. From its inception in 1991, the oral history project depended upon the dedication and talents of a valiant band of volunteers. They were responsible for collecting, transcribing and translating the records of the original group of women identified for this project. For nearly twenty years, volunteers systematically moved the work forward under the leadership of Ruth Edmonds Hill, the oral history curator at the Schlesinger Library.


Caroline Chang, Regional Manager in Boston for the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Isabelle Chang, – retired director, the Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, Public Library and author of children’s books

Ai-Li Chin, faculty member, researcher in the United States and China, including Harvard University, Tufts University, University of Massachusetts at Boston, M.I.T.

Alice Chin, factory worker; photography as hobby

Kim Ho Chin, worked in garment factory

Amy Guen, social worker; cofounder of South Cove Manor, nursing and rehabilitation home for elderly Chinese

Jennie Chin Hansen, current president of AARP; nursing faculty at San Francisco State University

Sunha Ho, garment factory worker; later in husband’s tailor shop

Josephine Moy Hong, homemaker

Shiu-ying Hu, botanist, instructor at Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University

Mary Ning, worked in father’s restaurant; later owned movie theatre with husband

Rulan Pian – Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and of Music, emerita, Harvard University

Florence Tow, owner of a laundry business

Grace Toy, nurse, Quincy Hospital in Massachusetts, also United States Army

Kiong Tien Vandenberg, Homemaker (mother of Massachusetts Appeals Court Judge, Fernande Duffly)

Barbara Wong, worker in family Oriental Chow Mein Company, a noodle factory in Fall River, Massachusetts

Grace Wong, worked in husband’s restaurant

Lee Shee Wong, –homemaker

Helen Woo –bookstore employee; later at New England Medical Center

Jean Wu – created and taught first Asian American studies course at Harvard University; Bryn Mawr, University of Pennsylvania; currently at Tufts University