To break the rules: Transformation and empowerment of Chinese American women through WWII experience

Man Ka LEE

Research output: ThesisHonours Projects (HP)


The United States’ entrance into World War II in 1942 marked a crucial turning point for American women, as the war provided opportunities for them to move from private space to public space. Chinese American women also experienced such transformation and empowerment. For many Chinese American women, World War II was not only a chance to reshape their gender roles and socioeconomic status, but a milestone of stepping out Chinatown and being included in American world. With the end of World War II, however, the rules of expecting women to stay at domesticity reappeared, and women’s opportunities in American society were limited again. Yet, it was not a temporary empowerment for some Chinese American women, but an ongoing empowerment that they broke the rules with the war ended. This paper tried to answer the following questions: How did the wartime experience change and empower Chinese American women from pre-WWII to post-WWII, and why some Chinese American women were able to maintain their empowerment after World War II. I examine such questions with the experiences of four Chinese American women, who participated during World War II, as case studies. Unlike the majority, these Chinese American women did not experience a fall back in their lives, but an upgrade through World War II. I explore the possible reasons behind with the discussion of their identities as Chinese, intellectual and woman themselves, and illustrate how exceptional they were in the history of Chinese American women.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationBachelor of Education (Honours)
  • PETRULIS, Jason Todd, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Chinese American women
  • World War II
  • Women’s empowerment
  • Honours Project (HP)
  • Bachelor of Education (Honours) (History) (Five-year Full-time)
  • Programme code: A5B077
  • Course code: HIS4039


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