By Grace Yee / Women’s Museum of California
I grew up in New Zealand, the southernmost white settler post on the Pacific Rim – a place known by my forebears as the “New Gold Mountain” 新金山.
In the 1860s, my great-great-grandfather left his home in Toi Shan 台山 county in Kwangtung (now Guangdong) Province, South China to work on the North American railroads. He died in 1874, when the ship he was returning home in was ambushed by pirates in Hong Kong harbour.
His eldest son, my great-grandfather, unable to enter the United States due to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, ventured to New Zealand in 1884, where he established a laundry business in the capital city of Wellington. His only son, my grandfather, founded a bank, a whisky distillery, a grocery business and a pharmacy, and raised a family of five sons, of whom my father was the third. I treasure this family history, for it affirms my Chinese New Zealand origins, but I have long wondered why my foremothers don’t feature in this narrative. [Read more…]