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Miss April Lou, teacher at PS 1, Manhattan, with six Chinese children, recent arrivals from Hong Kong and Formosa, who are holding up placards giving his or her Chinese name (both in ideographs and in transliteration) and the name to be entered upon the official school records. Photo by Fred Palumbo, 1964.

Women of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage

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May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As we often do for heritage months, the Library is sharing a set of images from the collections that are free to use and reuse, and that touch on the experiences and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders while living in the United States.

In looking through the group of images, I noticed portraits of three interesting women, all influential in their own ways during their lifetimes.

First, Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii poses here in formal dress. She was the only queen regnant and the last sovereign ruler of Hawaii. She was also a prolific songwriter, and amongst her work is the iconic “Aloha Oe (Farewell to Thee),” written while she was a princess.

Liliuokalani, the last sovereign of the Kamehameha dynasty that ruled the Hawaiian kingdom. Photo, circa 1891.

Chinese American actress Anna May Wong is often considered the first Asian American woman to become a film star in Hollywood, debuting during the silent film era and continuing to perform up to the 1960s. Her 1937 film, Daughter of Shanghai, in which she played a lead role opposite another Asian American actor, was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2006.

Portrait of Anna May Wong. Photo by Carl Van Vechten, 1935 Sept. 22.

Patsy T. Mink became the first woman of color and the first Asian American woman elected to Congress in 1964. Her lifetime of public service included two stints in the House of Representatives, 1965-1977 and 1990-2002, representing the state of Hawaii. Her tireless efforts for women’s rights, civil rights, education, and more are documented in the Patsy T. Mink Papers, housed at the Library of Congress. In the 1994 photo below, she announces the formation of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Representative Patsy Mink announces the formation of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus at a press conference with (left to right) Representatives Don Edwards and Norman Mineta, Guam Delegate Robert Underwood, and Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Neil Abercrombie. Photo by Laura Patterson, 1994 May 20.


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