Clothes and Heritage: Chinese American Clothes from the Virginia Lee Mead Collection
Lee B. Lok (1869 – 1942) immigrated to San Francisco from the Tai shan District, Guangdong Province, China in 1881. Soon after arrival he moved to New York City’s Chinatown where he worked in the Quong Yuen Shing & Co. general store. With some English skills he became head of the store in 1894 allowing him to upgrade his identity papers from “coolie” to “merchant.” This change in status exempted him from the restrictions imposed by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which barred the entry of Chinese laborers who had not already been in the United States. This change enabled Lee to marry Ng Shee in China circa 1900 and return to New York. Living above the store at 32 Mott Street, the couple raised seven children.
Mr. Lee behind the counter (in the center) of the Quong Yuen Shing & Co. store, c. 1917
In New York, Lee founded the Chinese Merchants Association, and in 1918 he was recognized as a prominent member of the Chinese community; however U.S. laws prohibited him from becoming an American citizen. His children all attended college becoming teachers, doctors and business people.
"Clothes and Heritage: Chinese American Clothes from the Virginia Lee Mead Collection - Introduction " showing 1 items.
- Mrs. Lee had bound feet her entire life. Her daughter, Grace Mok, noted in an oral history that her limited mobility and difficulty in walking required her to be accompanied wherever she went. Though these are not Ng Shee Lee’s shoes, they are similar to those she wore.
- Foot binding in China may have originated as early as 900 AD. Though outlawed by the conquering Manchus in the 17th century, the Han Chinese retained the social practice into the 20th century.
- Currently not on view
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center