Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Link to Ashley Buckley's Senior Art Thesis

Lisa  See

Ashley  Buckley 
The Soong Sisters and the Status of Chinese Women

Lisa See: Relationships and their Misunderstandings

Throughout her novels Lisa See portrays the misunderstandings and further conflicts that arise from relationships in turmoil. See sets her novels across different centuries in order to show that there are some conflicts that are common to all time periods. In Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, See writes about the many restrictions on women during the nineteenth century. The protagonist, Lily endures many hardships throughout this novel; however, she has a friend who struggles along with her. Lily is a young girl who is naïve to the world around her and doesn’t know how to make relationships work, her close friendship with her laotong, or her “old same” teaches her the “deep heart love” that will better her life. Despite miscommunication and misunderstandings, Lily learns through this friendship that trust is the foundation of all relationships. A bond built on trust provides much happiness as people learn to cherish their partners. Lisa See’s works portrays the life of Chinese women and the expectations of their culture in order to teach her readers life lessons.

In traditional Chinese society, women endured many hardships in order to strengthen their families but they were unable to voice their opinions freely. In Chinese society men treated women as property, making them attend to all of their husbands’ needs. It was not until the mid-twentieth century that Chinese women experienced true change. They organized movements in which women could speak their minds, giving them hope and independence. Communism and educational opportunities changed the roles open to Chinese women. Three striking examples of strong Chinese women were the Soong sisters, who fought for women’s rights. The Soong Sisters received a higher education when they attended Wesleyan University in Georgia and Wellesley College in Massachusetts. These were rare educational opportunities for most Chinese women. The Soong sisters were aided in their fight for women’s rights in their marriages to important political men who were political or economic leaders in China. These men and the sisters’ American education offered them an opportunity to be powerful in society. In the twentieth century, Chinese women like the Soong sisters fought to overcome discrimination and to attain equality.

Major Works Consulted:

Hahn, Emily. The Soong Sisters. Westport: Greenwood, 1970.
Peck, Stacey. Halls of Jade Walls of Stone: Women in China Today. New York: Franklin Watts, 1985.
See, Lisa. The Interior. New York: Random, 2008.
---. Peony in Love. New York: Random, 2007.
Photo Credit: See, Lisa. Peony in Love. New York: Random, 2007.