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By the time 2012 arrived, I had been a lawyer for over 25 years and a Chinese American for 40 years, and I was overcome by a strong sense of duty to pen this book, "The Legal History of Chinese Americans- Battle between the Dragon and the Eagle". From the start, I wrote it as a mission to share my personal experiences and research. I never expected more than a few readers, after all, a laundry list of legal cases is not exactly sexy reading. But I could not imagine that it would only take one reader to change my life forever. That reader is Dr. Yu-Tung Chang, Executive Director of the National History Museum in Taiwan. He encouraged me to curate an exhibition based on the legal history of Chinese American women.
I have been many things in my life, but I have never been a curator. Trusting Dr. Yu-Tung Chang's belief in me, I naively drove straight in. With benefit of hindsight, I can say now that my curating experience proved the Chinese proverb "Seeking no excess finds you noble" erroneous. I had to literally beg people day and night to help out everyday for everything. Some said no, but to my surprise many said yes. Inspired by such kindness, I knew I was on the right path and that I needed to do the right thing for all these people who put their faith in me to bring the stories of their lives and of their ancestors to life. All of my groveling for favors was worth it.
Entitled “Herstory—the Legal History of Chinese American Women,” in May 2015, Herstory was officially unveiled to the public at the National History Museum in Taiwan, Tainan Historical Meeting Hall and Chung Hua Art Museum.
In 2016, Herstory exhibition opened at the San Francisco Main Library, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, the New York Public Library Chatham Square, the Chicago Public Library Chinatown Branch and the San Mateo County Library in Foster City.
In 2017, Herstory will travel to the Los Angeles Central Library, UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Library and Hawaii State Library. The response has been overwhelming and I am deeply grateful for all the assistance I receive everywhere and from everyone.
The entire contents of this book are derived from the cases of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Courts of various states, specifically, cases fought by the Chinese American women who disproved the ancient Chinese teaching of "Only unpleasant endings emerge from lawsuits".
Starting in 1852, the cases document women who fought for basic legal standing, for equal treatment in the eyes of the law and for citizenship and immigration rights. One case from 1874 from San Francisco describes a group of recent immigrants who were set to be deported because they were labeled as "lewd and immoral" merely due to their style of dress. The women took this injustice to court and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their favor, stating that the California laws were in conflict with federal immigrations laws and the women were released. In another San Francisco case from 1885, the California State Supreme Court ruled that Chinese American children had a right to public education and to attend public schools because of (insert litigants name)'s case.
This book is about the ordinary people who fought for their rights and in doing so helped shape a new world for all Chinese Americans.