“Chinese women came here as refugees, not knowing what to expect; to a strange land with strange foods and people, and an even stranger language. We have made our lives and our homes here among friends who showed us a welcoming hand and whom we set out to emulate.”
These were some of the sentiments echoed by Mrs. Margery Kirkpatrick at the Chinese Association last Wednesday as the Chinese community celebrated 150 years since the first Chinese women landed on the shores of Guyana. She was introducing an exhibition on Chinese women at the time.
Titled ‘An Enduring Female Legacy’, the exhibition features wall upon wall of genealogical data on many prominent Chinese women in the century and a half that they were here.
It also features ancestors, descendants, births, marriages and in some cases even exceptional achievements or prominent positions held by some of these women.
The evening got off to a dramatic start to the rhythmic pounding of drums as the Lion Dance was performed. Similar to the Dragon Dances that are such a popular symbol of Chinese cultural celebrations, the dances are performed with colourful ‘lions’ covering two men under each costume. As the drums beat, so the lions undulate, advancing and retreating in mimicry of the hunt.
During the course of the evening, the story of the immigrant Chinese women was touched upon briefly by each speaker. It was pointed out that despite the fact that the first Chinese men came to these shores in 1853, Chinese women did not grace these shores until some seven years later. Fifty six women, including young girls, came to British Guiana on board the British vessel the ‘Whirlwind’. The male Chinese population at the time was somewhere around 1280.
For the first time, Chinese women had power, they came from their native land where they had little or no say in their affairs and were treated as little more than chattels. Yet in their newly adopted land, they experienced the ability and freedom to choose their own paths and to shape their own destinies. These women took steps outside of the normal and did things that they would not have normally done. They were not required to work on the plantations, yet many of them did just that to supplement the incomes of their husbands.
Meanwhile, others took to business, cooking and selling pastries or setting up small shops with their husbands.
A number of women who have clearly stepped out of the time honoured roles that have been cast for them were spoken of.
Mrs. Kirkpatrick, who was featured prominently in the exhibition for her contributions to Guyanese culture and society, mentioned a few of these special women.
She spoke of Asin Ho a Shoo.
In 1905, this intrepid young woman, born in British Guiana, decided to become a doctor and went on to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. In 1911 she became a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and one year later a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons. She went on to obtain a Diploma in Public Health from the University of Dublin and become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.
Sarah Lam-a-Poo, born in 1870, who was the grandmother of Errol “Ping” Gillette, Guyana’s first Ombudsman after independence, went into business as a young woman making Chinese cakes and Minshee, a seasoning produced from beans in her home.
Cheu Leen Ho-a-Shoo, was a first generation Guyanese who in 1941 was appointed by the Government to sit on the Board of Governors of Bishop’s High School, her alma mater.
An even more amazing achievement went to Ada Akai who became Deputy Head Mistress of the then all boys Queen’s College in 1974, an “almost unheard of feat at that time in the country’s history”, according to Mrs. Kirkpatrick.
These were just a few of the remarkable women who typify the culture of hard workers.
President Bharrat Jagdeo, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and a number of other dignitaries were present for the event. The exhibition, however, was only the start of the celebrations for the Chinese Community. During the next week, the Chinese community will be tracing the steps of their ancestors from the plantation at Windsor Forest, where the earliest labourers were posted to serve their Indentureship. The travels will continue with visits to Hopetown near the Kamuni Creek on the Demerara River, one of the first villages settled by Chinese labourers. There are also a number of other activities that have been planned to add to the celebrations.
Sep 16, 2019Winston Missigher showed that his first win in the Courts 10k road race last year was no fluke after successfully defending his long distance title when the event concluded yesterday on Main Street....
Sep 16, 2019
Sep 16, 2019
Sep 16, 2019
Sep 16, 2019
Sep 16, 2019
Editor’s Note, If your sent letter was not published and you felt its contents were valid and devoid of libel or personal attacks, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]