Women's History Month – Awesome Chinese Women You Never Heard Of

To celebrate Women’s History Month, I had a small piece published in the Shenzhen Daily today featuring three amazing, historical Chinese women you probably never heard of. Because of space and reasons, though, the article is pretty short and doesn’t do these women justice. After reading the article, I hope you will look up Mary Tape, Qiu Jin, and Qin Liangyu and learn more about them.

Mary Tape — Chinese-American activist

In 1885, almost 70 years before Brown vs. Board of Education (the landmark case that ended racial school segregation in America), a Chinese immigrant named Mary Tape (featured image above) sued the San Francisco school board, demanding that her daughter be allowed to attend public school like every other American citizen. And she won! However, the school board still denied Mamie entrance on a technicality. The state then quickly established laws segregating Chinese children to their own schools, a practice that would not end until 1954.

Qiu Jin — poet and feminist

Many people think feminism is new in China, but Qiu Jin was writing about rights for women over a century ago. While trapped in an unhappy marriage, she got involved in politics. In 1906, she founded a magazine for women that featured feminist and nationalist writings. During the rebellions against the Qing Empire, Qiu dressed and trained like a man and fought side by side with revolutionary students. She once wrote, “With all my heart I beseech and beg my 200 million female compatriots to assume their responsibility as citizens. Arise! Arise! Chinese women, arise!” On July 15, 1907, she was executed as a traitor by the Qing Government. Her death, though, only encouraged people to rebel against the oppressive and archaic Qing Dynasty. Her books, poems, and articles were widely published and highly praised. Today, she is still viewed as a national heroine.

Qin Liangyu — general

At the end of the Ming Dynasty, Qin Liangyu was taught history, military tactics and literature and was skilled in martial arts, archery and poetry. At 20, she was married to a local chief who valued her talents. In 1599, Qin was able to rally over 500 of her own men to put down a large rebellion. When her husband died in prison in 1613, Qin took over his post as chief of Shizhu. In 1620, Qin recruited over 3,000 soldiers to put down another rebellion. In 1630, she put down a rebellion by the Manchus. The Ming emperor was so pleased with Qin that he wrote four poems about her. For the next 11 years, Qin continued to ride around the country putting down rebellions. The emperor entitled her Grand Protector of the Crowned Prince, making her the highest-ranking female general in Chinese history. Even after the Ming Dynasty fell, Qin continued fighting. Qin died from falling off her horse while inspecting her troops at 75 years old.

What amazing women from Chinese history do YOU think more people should know about?

Don’t forget to enter the drawing for a free pack of books by Chinese women, also in celebration of Women’s History Month!