Stories and Photographs by LYDIA LUM, copyright 1998
Few Chinese women immigrated to the United States in the first half of this century because of the hardships on the Chinese immigant laborers and because of the Chinese tradition of giving boys first opportunities for better lives in this country.
But at age 7, Helen Wong Hom immigrated in 1928 with her mother and brother to the United States. She is unsure how long they were detained at Angel Island. They later reunited with her merchant father in San Francisco and eventually settled in San Antonio. They later moved to Houston. Now 76, she is a retired grocer and homemaker in Houston.
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“The inspectors undressed me because they couldn’t believe I was a girl. They thought I was a boy. Mommy didn’t like that at all. Chinese are very modest about their bodies, you know.”
“I don’t remember much because I was so young. I was not interrogated because I was young. Mommy and I were together. As long as I was with Mommy, it was like everything was okay.”
“I got enough to eat because I don’t remember being hungry. Mommy worried about us getting out. Sometimes she couldn’t eat because she was so worried. She would entertain me with games like pat-a-cake.”
“Mommy was strong for my sake.”
— Helen Wong Hom