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UBC Theses and Dissertations

History of the life of Chinese Women : the development of Chinese feminism Johnson, Eve


Ch'en Tung-yüan's History of the Life of Chinese Women, written in 1927, is the only comprehensive contemporary account of the early women's movement in China. For this reason it has been widely used by Western scholars who have recently become interested in the origins of Chinese feminism. This thesis consists of a translation of the sections of Ch'en's History which deal with the period between 1895 and 1927, and a commentary which examines the value of Ch'en's work as a source for our understanding of women's history in China. In general, Ch'en's description of the changes in women's lives is accurate; but its scope is too narrow; the only women it applies to are those of the Orthodox Confucian past and the Modern, May Fourth generation of the 19201s. The omission of working class and peasant women, and of the cultural stereotypes of the folk tradition, lead to a serious distortion of the nature of Chinese feminism. Only by recognizing the limitations of Ch'en's approach and researching the role of women in the popular tradition, can we achieve a more balanced picture.

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