Golden Heels

In Attire

My great-grandfather, Ming Mow Chin, was a Chinese herbalist, recruited by Railroads in the late 1870’s to peddle herbal medicines and goods to Chinese workers. He arrived in Boston in 1887 and established the Wing On Tank Co, serving the laundry and restaurant bachelor workforce. In 1905 my grandfather Wah Chin, also herbalist and Domiciled Merchant, joined him. Not restricted by the Chinese Exclusion Act, Wah returned to China in 1922, took a second wife and brought her to Boston to start his American family. My mother, Amy Chin Guen, was born in Chinatown in 1924 followed by five siblings. Orphaned by the untimely death of both parents, the children, all under ten, were sent to China. Surprisingly, Wah’s first wife in the family village warmly received them, showering the children with love and ensuring their education. My mother lived in China for 12 years, to the end of WWII, and in 1946 repatriated her family to Boston's Chinatown. With support from her community, she enrolled at Regis College. She wore these golden heels at college formals, representing her hope of returning to America and gratitude to her community.  She and her siblings joined the 1960s grassroots core of activists who saved Boston’s Chinatown from Urban Renewal, organized direct service organizations, growing into a social services network that continues to serve thousands today.  In 2017, Boston College bestowed an Honorary Doctorate to my mother, for her vision and decades of service.

Place(s): Boston Chinatown

– Terry Guen, Terry Guen Design Associates

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more