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Chinese Diaspora Charity and the Cantonese Pacific, 1850-1949$
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John Fitzgerald and Hon-ming Yip

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9789888528264

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888528264.001.0001

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The “Invisible Work” of Women

The “Invisible Work” of Women

Gender and Philanthropic Sociability in the Evolution of Early Chinese Australian Voluntary Organizations

(p.154) 8 The “Invisible Work” of Women
Chinese Diaspora Charity and the Cantonese Pacific, 1850-1949

Mei-fen Kuo

Hong Kong University Press

This chapter explores how Chinese cultural expressions of charity, based on interpersonal relationships (guanxi) and native place (tongxiang) ties, came to mix and interact with contrasting traditions of Christian charity practiced in a predominantly British milieu in colonial and federation Australia over the late 19th century and 20th centuries. We employ the term “philanthropic sociability” to capture the spirit of innovation that came to characterize a number of voluntary organizations in which Chinese Australian women were active organizers and innovators. By analyzing male-dominated writings and records of charitable fairs and public celebrations, the chapter argues that women undertook “invisible work” in voluntary organizations and built a variety of informal networks among them. Although their social impact was limited, women contextualized their participation in male-dominated activities in ways that cannot be explained in terms of patriarchal values. We find that the impact of women in Chinese- Australian voluntary organizations was not just about the feminizing of community formations but also about promoting philanthropic sociability in ways that traditional organizations could not match.

Keywords:   philanthropic sociability, Chinese Australian History, Chinese women in diaspora, Chinese voluntary organizations in diaspora

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