Award-Winning Author Who Put Chinese American Women in Spotlight Passes Away at 74

Judy Yung

Historian Judy Yung, who was instrumental in documenting the lives of Chinese American women, died on Dec. 14 at the age of 74.

Early life: Before becoming an award-winning author and educator, Yung was already doing her part for the Asian American community, developing Asian language materials and Asian American library collections while working as a librarian at the San Francisco Public Library’s Chinatown Branch and the Oakland Public Library’s Asian Branch.

  • She was a second-generation Chinese American, born and raised in San Francisco Chinatown, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • She also worked for the East West newspaper as an associate editor for four years.
  • After getting her Ph.D. in ethnic studies, Yung became a professor of American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. There, she established a program in Asian American studies and started writing books tackling Chinese American history.
  • She published her first book in 1991 titled “Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910 – 1940.”
  • The book featured translations of 135 poems that detained Chinese immigrants carved on the walls of the Angel Island Immigration Station, along with interviews with former staff and detainees.

Focus on Chinese American women: Yung would eventually be recognized as an important force in developing historical literature about Chinese women living in the United States. 

  • After directing the first traveling exhibit on Chinese American women, Yung published her second book, “Chinese Women of America: A Pictorial History.” 
  • “Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco,” which would become her bestselling book, featured diverse first- and second-generation Chinese American women.
  • The book, which details the history of the immigrant Chinese female population in San Francisco, highlighted the lack of scholarship on women in Asian American studies.
  • Yung received numerous awards and recognition for her work, including the Lifetime Achievement Award given to her by the Association for Asian American Studies in 2006.

Feature Image via UCR Today

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