by Phoebe Ho
TORONTO, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- The unsung stories of Chinese Canadian women, a group often overlooked, were featured in a new exhibit in the Canadian city of Toronto on Thursday.
"The Working Lives of Chinese Canadian Women, 1923 - 1967" exhibit weaves together photos and oral histories and interviews of dozens of women during the period of restricted immigration to tell a story of resilience and strength.
Stories that were largely undocumented throughout time are featured and broken down into themes at the exhibit to help people understand the role education, family businesses and home-based and community work played in the lives of Chinese Canadian women, said Jennifer Harrington, the exhibit's curator.
The period between 1923 to 1967 was a particularly dark time for Chinese immigrants. With the Chinese Exclusion Act implemented in 1923 by the Canadian government, not only were Chinese immigrants restricted from entering Canada, but those who had immigrated before the act faced explicit discrimination by both the government and its citizens.
The exhibit attempts to show how Chinese Canadian women lived at the time, and to highlight the unnoticed sacrifices and contributions they made to the country as homemakers, restaurateurs, doctors and business owners.
"I think throughout all of the interviews and photographs, we see women facing challenges and how they overcome them to support their families, to support their communities and to promote the success ultimately," Harrington said.
The exhibit is an adaptation of an earlier project created by the Multicultural History Society of Ontario, the group responsible for documenting the oral testimonies. Harrington said it was the perfect opportunity to showcase and tell the rich stories chronicling the history of Chinese Canadian women during a time of exclusion and racial discrimination.
But besides giving visitors a taste of what the day-to-day lives of this small group was like, Harrington said the exhibit also brings these women's successes to the forefront.
"We also profile some women we consider to be trailblazers," she said. "Women who have broken down boundaries to achieve great success."
Some of these women featured in the exhibit were at the launch to see their stories displayed. One of them is Ruth Lor Malloy, a photojournalist who witnessed the discrimination first hand. Born and raised in Canada, Lor Malloy was completely fluent in English and integrated with the culture. But that didn't stop her from becoming excluded because of her race.
"There was a lot of discrimination. We were called names in the street," she said. "When my father was a kid he was working on laundry and boys would come along and push the laundry over and get it all dirty and that kind of stuff...the big thing for us being teenagers growing up was that we never dated, my sister and I never dated anybody, we were the only Chinese in the school."
It was Lor Malloy's dream to become a photojournalist. But as a Chinese Canadian woman during that period of time, achieving her dream wasn't easy.
"It's sort of made me very interested in finding out why," she said. "Why these people were treating us like second class citizens and why this journalist told me I couldn't become a journalist, because I wanted to become a journalist."
These are the types of stories Harrington hopes to share with visitors. By showcasing these empowering stories, she hopes younger generations can learn and appreciate the sacrifices and contributions immigrants have made for the country over the years.
"The experience I want people to have here is one of reflection," she said. "It's important for Canadians everywhere to understand and learn about the stories of various groups that come to Canada, particularly in the context of our multicultural society."