Of drudgery and domesticity : a comparative history of the Samsui Women and Ma Jie of Nanyang
Tan, Jeanette Hui Ping
Date of Issue2016-03-21
College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
The Samsui women and Majie represent two pioneering groups of Chinese female immigrants that had migrated from the southern provinces to Singapore in the 1930s’, working as construction labourers and live-in domestic servants respectively. Both are regarded as independent and strong female figures in history, yet are not accorded the same amount of prominence in the state’s memory, with the Samsui woman being a much greater figure of acclaim. Through a critical analysis of the historical contexts of their migration, the women’s work and social lives, as well as the politics of representations surrounding both groups in social memory, this research paper argues that compared to the Samsui labourer, the Majie’s occupational niche renders her a figure that presents a more problematic subject of memory. Whilst the Samsui woman embodies easily the state’s master narrative centred on a hardworking and economic-centric rhetoric, the Majie is instead an uncomfortable symbol of British imperialism and a resistance to the institution of marriage, therefore making her an ambivalent figure in the subject of Singapore’s public memory.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University