Judy Yung’s death this month marks the passing of a gifted and generous scholar. Her groundbreaking work in the history of Asian American women paved the way for a new generation of thinkers and writers.
Along with fellow San Franciscans Him Mark Lai and the Philip P. Choy, Judy Yung made an enormous contribution to our understanding of the Asian American experience. Her focus was on women, a group that had been largely been overlooked by scholars. Judy died on December 14 at her home after a fall, at the age of 74.
Born in 1946 and raised in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Yung worked as a librarian in the public library’s Chinatown branch before getting her PhD. in Ethnic Studies at U.C. Berkeley. She went on to become a beloved professor at U.C. Santa. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Sam Whiting wrote a touching tribute to her life.
Yung’s Unbound Voices: A Documentary History of Chinese Women in San Francisco, and Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco, were an enormous help to me in writing The White Devil’s Daughters. One of the women she profiled was Tye Leung Schulze, among the first Chinese American woman to exercise the right to vote.
Judy and I were in touch during the five years I spent researching and writing The White Devil’s Daughters, and one of my last email exchanges with her was while I was doing my photo research. She shared some suggestions on how to track down descendants of some of the women who passed through the mission home now known as Cameron House.
She also provided me with one of my favorite photos in the book – a 1912 photo of Tye Leung Schulze behind the wheel of an enormous Studebaker-Flanders. Judy revealed that Tye, a short-statured woman whose nickname was Tiny, never actually learned to drive. I am deeply grateful to her and send my heartfelt condolences to her sister, Susan Lee, and her family.
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