As the keystone of my family’s laundry business, this household iron represented, for my grandparents and great-grandfather, the isolation and hardships they had upon immigrating to an unwelcoming United States from China. My family immigrated after the Chinese Exclusion Acts were signed into law, becoming some of the most restrictive legal immigration actions taken by the United States. Like the few Chinese immigrant families who made their livelihoods cleaning and ironing clothes in the Bronx; money was consistently scarce, thus, making opportunities rare as well. What were plentiful were the dreams each family held for a more prosperous future in America. To my mother, a grandchild of a bachelor laundryman, the iron represented survival, one which taught her a strong work ethic because while attending school from early childhood, she also worked long hours in the laundry to pursue those dreams. For me, the iron represents, not only a symbol in our family history which has formed the foundation of my identity as a Chinese-American, but also the opportunities a person can have if they are willing to dedicate themselves to work, any work.

Year: 1949

– LC

Relationship:  unknown unknown