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How can we re-create the world of a woman who left no trace in the public record? This talk considers the life of a woman from a politically active Chinese family. She was the daughter of a reformer, wife of a Nationalist official educated at MIT, mother of an underground Communist revolutionary. Unlike the men in her family, she left no first-person accounts of her life. She emerges primarily in interviews with her son and in an unfinished and unpublished historical novel by her daughter. Filial duty, household politics, sexual propriety, marital expectations, maternal loyalty, domestic cosmopolitanism, and shrewd political judgment mingle in her story, raising questions about where revolution lies and how we should track its less visible effects. Her life illuminates the gendering of China’s long revolution, the central importance of women as symbols of the nation, and the limits of what we can know about the past.
Guest lecturer: Gail Hershatter, University of California, Santa Cruz
Distinguished Professor of History