Women Against the Flow

loading Chinese women working in a tin mine.

Chinese women in Penang – be they Straits-born or newly immigrated – fought for equality during an era dominated by men.

Women in colonial Malaya lived under unquestionable patriarchy – inequality was prevalent, and very few women were fortunate enough to make a difference in society, let alone the world.

To make ends meet, most worked in tin mines, rubber estates, oil palm plantations, and as domestic helpers, prostitutes or dancers at nightclubs.1 Gender roles limited these women to the household; society made it clear that there was no place for women in fields dominated by men, such as business, education and politics.

Ong Dong Shu.

Advocating Education

Colonial-era Penang was home to many a brilliant, entrepreneurial woman.


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