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Locating Chinese WomenHistorical Mobility between China and Australia$

Kate Bagnall and Julia T. Martínez

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9789888528615

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888528615.001.0001

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Missing Ruby

Missing Ruby

(p.151) 7 Missing Ruby
Locating Chinese Women

Antonia Finnane

Hong Kong University Press

Abstract and Keywords

In July 1925, the body of a young Chinese-Australian woman was dragged out of the harbour in Fremantle, Western Australia. An inquest ensued, leading to the trial of her husband for murder. From press reports and legal documents concerning the case emerge details of family life in the small Australian Chinese community of between-the-wars Perth. Drawing on Sigurdur Gylfi Magnusson’s concept of the singularization of history, the chapter considers the implications of research on one person, or one family, for a subfield such as ‘Chinese-Australian history’, or ‘the history of Chinese women in Australia’.  Ruby’s was a singular story. How was it Chinese? How was it Australian? Where is the historiographical space for it to be recounted?

Keywords:   Chinese Australians, Ruby Leewood, 1920s Perth, domestic violence, family formation, singularization of history

On the night of July 13, 1925, a young Perth woman by the name of Ruby Yen failed to return home from work. Ten days later her body was recovered from the harbour at North Wharf in nearby Fremantle. The subsequent inquest and trial were closely followed by the public, with courtrooms packed and newspapers carrying verbatim reports of proceedings. A number of Ruby’s relatives gave evidence: both parents, her brother-in-law, her younger sister, and her husband, Leong Yen. Leong Yen was eventually found guilty of manslaughter. The jury recommended leniency, and he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour.

Domestic violence, although not then known as such, was a marked feature of Australian society in the years after World War I. The treatment of offenders—true to the Leong Yen example—tended to be lenient. This has been explained as an outcome of popular sympathies with returned soldier perpetrators of violence in the context of a generally militarized society in the post-war years,1 but it was not only returned soldiers who were treated leniently. Historian Elizabeth Nelson has observed a broader tendency to blame the violence ultimately on selfish, pleasure-seeking modern young women (the victims) who failed to face up to the responsibilities of wifehood.2 Nelson’s research was limited to Anglo-Australian society. Would a more inclusive survey lead to different conclusions? Did Chinese Leong Yen have anything in common with, for example, Anglo-Australians Roy Wilson and Leslie Bilney, who, ‘unable to achieve manliness through military combat … sought to forge their identities as men through absolute control over their young wives’?3 If not, where does the story of Ruby and Leong Yen belong in Australian history?

(p.152) This is partly a question about comparative family formations in Australia. The model of Chinese Australian society as a ‘bachelor society’ in which family life was absent has been challenged in recent years by research on intermarriage between Chinese immigrants and non-Chinese, exposing emerging common ground across ethnocultural divisions.4 Documentation of endogamous marriages among Chinese people in Australia is not lacking but to date remains fragmentary, scattered through multiple studies of communities and personal memoirs. The rich body of material engendered by Leong Yen’s trial and the inquest that preceded it points to legal cases as a source worthy of systematic mining if the foundations of a broad-based history of Chinese Australian families is to be laid.5

The shattering end to Ruby’s marriage also prompts thinking about what historian Sigurður Magnússon might describe as the historicity of the ‘singular’ event.6 Ruby’s death was an untoward happening. It removed the victim, her parents, her siblings, and her husband from the solid mainstream of everyday family life. It was responsible for an unusually high degree of exposure in public of personal and family matters. The documentation of the case helps make visible relationships within the family, the specific cultural characteristics of which occasionally emerge in sharp relief. Precisely because it was a case of domestic violence, it sheds light on the home, a rarely illuminated space in Chinese Australian history. Most importantly, it draws attention to a historical absence, Ruby, the missing member of the family, who was also one of the many ‘missing women’ of twentieth-century Australia.7

What sort of history is appropriate to this absence? Working with a very different set of sources and issues, Sigurður Magnússon described his project on the life of Elka Björnsdóttir, a working woman of Reykjavik, as ‘reducing the scale of observation … [to] reveal the complicated function of individual relationships within each and every social setting and how they differ from the general norm’.8 It cannot be shown of relationships within Ruby’s family that they differed from the norm, because the field of Chinese Australian history in this respect is too nascent for a general view or theory of, for example, familial relationships and cultural change yet to have emerged. Where Magnússon’s microhistorical approach is helpful is via a poetics of history that legitimates attention to ‘so-called fragments, testimony of times past’ that can ‘offer ways of highlighting the diversity of life and promoting an (p.153) understanding of all the extant threads relating to a restricted area of knowledge’.9 For Magnússon, in the study of Elka Björnsdóttir, the restricted area was bounded by the life experiences and mental world of a working-class woman, a view from which early twentieth-century Icelandic society appears in a particular light. In the present study, the restricted area is that occupied by Ruby and her family. When reporters descended on the family home in late July 1925, they anticipated the historian in seeking answers to some simply formulated questions: Who was she? Who were they?

Looking for Ruby

Ruby is a reluctant subject of history: unlike Magnússon’s Björnsdóttir, she did not leave diaries behind. Nor to our knowledge was she a prolific letter writer.10 Reporters made inquiries about her without finding out much more than was revealed in the court proceedings. Some photos exist—of her as a small child, and of her wedding.11 There are a few newspaper advertisements bearing on her employment, certificates of birth, marriage, and death, and a gravestone. Her nephew, Bill Chiew, born in Perth in 1925, was interviewed in 2008 as part of a local oral history project. He mentioned her name among others of his mother’s family, but without elaboration.12 It was the aunt who survived on whom he dwelt, not the aunt who died.

Something can be ascertained about the larger contexts of Ruby’s life and death: about the part of the world in which the events being traced here unfolded, and about the small Chinese community that was so intimately affected by them. Perth, where she was born and bred, was not just any Australian town. As capital and founding settlement of Western Australia, it had a particular history and character. The attachment there to Britain and empire was stronger than in the eastern coast cities, the albeit lighter convict “stain” more keenly felt, treatment of the indigenous population more paternalistic, and the reaction against Chinese immigrants sharper. Perth was closer to Asia than the eastern cities. Its isolation from them and proximity to Singapore and Java, kept in view by the daily newspaper reports of ships coming and going, in combination with a consciousness of a vast land mass inhabited by Aboriginal peoples, underpinned a pattern of consensus (p.154) in white social and political life.13 Suffrage for women was achieved early, in 1899, not because Western Australia was a strong proponent of women’s rights but arguably because in a small population it helped consolidate white political power.14 The state’s Immigration Restriction Act had been passed just two years earlier, in 1897.15

The year of Ruby’s parents’ marriage, 1901, was the year of Federation, bringing together the formerly separate colonies of the continent into a single sovereign state. The newly formed Commonwealth government passed the Immigration Restriction Act, based on the Western Australian Act of 1897.16 As had been the case in Western Australia, a dictation test was to be used to control the entry of nonwhite and other unwanted categories of people into the country. In 1904, the year of Ruby’s birth, the state legislature passed the Factories Act of Western Australia, restricting employment opportunities for Asians in manufacturing and requiring articles produced by them to be stamped as made by ‘Asiatic labour’.17 The Chinese population was in fact tiny, peaking at just under two thousand in 1897, and falling to around 1,500 in 1901, when Chinese-born residents accounted for less than one percent of the state’s population.18

Ruby’s parents emerge to visibility in history during the years of Western Australia’s greatest anxiety over the racial composition of the state’s population, and the period of most intense legislative and political activity concerning Chineseness. In the Western Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, they are identified as Hop Lin Wood and James (or William or Peter) Lee Wood. Ruby was their second daughter; her sister May had been born two years earlier. They and their siblings, James (b. 1906), Mabel (b. 1908), and William (b.1910), were part of a historically singular group—Australian nationals of Chinese ancestry born in the White Australia era. Possessing the advantages and protections of Australian nationality, however compromised such a status might have been by discrimination,19 they were distinguished not only from their China-born contemporaries, who could never (p.155) aspire to this level of belonging, but also from their own parents who were destined over the years to apply and reapply for registration as resident aliens.

The family’s obvious social context was the Chinese community of Perth and Western Australia more broadly. Much is already known about this community, which has a distinctive history in Australian terms.20 It began not with a gold rush but with indentured labour. It grew through interstate migration. It lacked the native-place associations that characterized Chinese society in Sydney and Melbourne, but with the founding of the Chung Wah Association in 1909 led the way nationally in the formation of Chinese societies that transcended village, county, and provincial ties.21 Chung Wah was pivotal to the formation of something that could be called a Chinese community in Perth. It provided a meeting place for men from different walks of life, from different localities, speaking different dialects. Ruby’s father, James Lee Wood Sr, butcher and shopkeeper, was a founding member.

Lee Wood

Lee Wood was born in Shala (沙瀾‎ C: sālàahn) village in Taishan, one of the famous Four Districts (四邑‎ C: seiyāp, M: sìyì) of Guangdong, a grouping too famous in the context of Chinese diaspora history to require further elaboration here, save to say that in Perth the Taishanese population ranked third in size, after natives of Xinhui and Kaiping.22 Lee Wood arrived in Perth in 1892, apparently from Melbourne, perhaps following in the footsteps of other Melbourne migrants.23 At the time of Ruby’s death he had been resident in Perth for thirty-three years. The family’s compound surname, Lee Wood or Lee-wood, was made up of the elements of his full name: surname Lee (李‎ C: léih, M: ) and personal name Wood (活‎ C: wuht, M: húo). In the Chinese-language press he is sometimes referred to by an alternative name, 李仲泉‎ (C: léih juhngchyùhn, M: lǐ zhòngquán).24 Judging by registrations of paternity for his various children, he moved through a succession of English personal names: William, Peter, and finally James, which he kept.

Photos of Lee Wood taken between 1901 and 1924 show a good-looking man in the prime of life, of confident, even arrogant, bearing.25 He looks like a man of consequence. An early reference to him in the English-language press notes that he sent a wreath to the funeral of Lucy Randell, the wife of parliamentarian George Randell, MLA, a funeral attended by the leading members of Perth society.26 The (p.156) few references we have to his socio-economic role and status have him as a butcher and a merchant. It is probable that he was also engaged in the opium trade, for he was a vocal opponent of restrictions on the import of opium introduced in 1905, a measure strongly advocated by prominent members of the Chinese community elsewhere in Australia.27 His acquisition of a very young wife in 1901 points to his capacity to command resources and perhaps to circumvent the law through engagement in illegal immigration.28 He played a prominent role in community associations, including the Chung Wah Association and the Kuomintang.29 While not foremost among community leaders, he maintained a highly visible presence.

The Chinese population in Western Australia, as in Australia overall, was overwhelmingly male. Alanna Kamp has taken issue with the truism that there were few Chinese women in Australia before the 1970s. As she points out, their numbers, however small, were steadily growing during the White Australia era, especially relative to men.30 In Chinese community photos from Perth in the early decades of the twentieth century, women are certainly to be seen, sometimes in surprising numbers,31 and the men, in fact, were mostly married.32 At the same time, there is no denying the absence of many wives, who were mostly back in China. In funeral notices of Chinese men published in the West Australian newspaper, it is common for the only name apart from that of the deceased to be that of his (male) cousin or ‘sincere friend’, the person assuming responsibility for the conduct of the funeral.

Very different from this was the funeral notice of Lee Wood, who after his death in 1946 was described as ‘a retired Merchant, late of 126 James-street, Perth, and of 11 Tiverton-street, Perth, dearly loved and devoted husband of Lin Lee Wood’. News of his death prompted a flood of ‘telegrams, cards, floral tributes and personal expressions of sympathy’, and not only from the Chinese community.33 Such tributes are testimony to the social prestige accruing to a man in possession of a family and prompt the question of how and why some men acquired wives in Australia and not others. In Perth it is obvious that relatively successful men in the community had families: apart from Lee Wood, these included furniture manufacturers Hoy Poy and Kum Yuan; storekeeper Quan A Sam, father of the redoubtable Shem brothers; market gardener John Lew Gooey, married to Mary Wong and the father of eight children; and Lee Wood’s son-in-law, storekeeper Timothy See Chiew, father of Bill Chiew.34

(p.157) There appears to be no formal record of Lee Wood’s marriage, but a family wedding photo survives.35 It shows a well-built man of middle years, seated, wearing a suit. His young bride in her turn-of-the-century Western clothes stands by his side and slightly to the rear. The wedding may have been conducted informally, with a matchmaker and friends invited to a banquet.36 In the absence of ancestor tablets before which to bow, this was a conventional way to conduct a wedding (albeit not clearly understood by Australian courts).37 In China itself, even in villages where the orthodox rites of marriage were fully observed, the clan feast was important for giving the bride (necessarily from another village) ‘recognition, and security to her status as a wife’.38 The photograph was consistent with this logic. Sophie Couchman has found a close correspondence between the wedding photograph in Chinese Australian history and the popularization of the white wedding, but the photo of this non-white apparently unregistered wedding suggests that the wedding photo also played a role in securing the legitimacy of a wedding through making it visible.39 In a visual tradition where images of ancestors had a central place in family life, such a photo would have gained in significance with the births of children and grandchildren.

Despite the passing of the Immigration Restriction Act, the first decade of Australian Federation was a time of modest growth in the Chinese population of Western Australia. It is known that in this period Lee Wood, whatever his other activities, was working as a butcher in the Quong Lee (also Kwong Lee and Kwong Li) store in James Street.40 This had probably always been his profession, as it was to remain. These were otherwise important years for him. His five children were born, giving him the heirs he needed and the visible substance that came with a wife and children. The birth of his elder son, James, in 1906, must have been especially important. The record of Lee Wood’s personal circumstances in the Chung Wah archives has him listed as a married man with two children, which necessarily means two sons (子‎ C: , M: ), showing the retention of normative Chinese family ideals in this alien setting.41 The father-son structure of the greater number of family groupings in the diaspora must have reinforced a tendency to see sons, and not daughters, as central to social organization.

(p.158) In 1909 Lee Wood participated in the planning and establishment of the Chung Wah Association, with premises at 126 James Street, Perth’s ‘Chinatown’. The association was formally opened by the Governor, Sir Edward Stone, in 1910, and Lee Wood’s was one of seven names publicly associated with its founding.42 Cai Tianming explains the formation of the association as a defensive measure on the part of men whose livelihoods were threatened by laws and regulations such as the Factories Act 1904, or a later proposal to ban Chinese from market gardening. The association was formally non-political, but with the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912, it moved from an effective alignment with the reformist ‘protect the emperor’ faction to the revolutionary Kuomintang faction, led by Sun Yat-sen. The Chinese press reported a new wave of anti-Chinese sentiment in Western Australia in this same year,43 but the social environment appears to have improved through the 1910s. The mocking term ‘Celestials’ gradually fell out of use, and there were fewer prosecutions of Chinese firms under racially restrictive clauses.44 In 1914 Lee Wood took over the Quong Lee business at 139 James Street, initially with a partner, Bow Wing, subsequently as an independent proprietor.45 An advertisement for the sale of a house at 11 Tiverton Street appeared in 1915 and this property might have been bought by him then.46 It was to be the family home for many decades.

It is easy to see how much more information can be collected about a man than about his wife. Lee Wood was a man of humble profession, but he had a recognized public persona as merchant and property owner, and as a member of the Chung Wah Association and Kuomintang. His activities, legal or illegal, were very likely to be recorded in some form or another and reported in newspapers, whether Chinese or English. Patching together these scraps of text produces an impression of the man in contemporary social and economic context—perhaps a rather tough man capable of operating on both sides of the law. His death notice in 1947 described him as a beloved husband and loving father, but the first of these at least is unlikely to have been correct. In Bill Chiew’s recollection, Lee Wood never visited the house in Tiverton Street; he lived with an offsider on the premises of his business in James Street.47 When he died at the age of eighty-nine, it was not in the Tiverton Street house but in the home of his eldest daughter, May.48 He gambled and frequently hocked the deeds of the family house.

Bill Chiew knew both his grandparents well. In the school term, he and his siblings went daily to Tiverton Street for their lunch, where they ate sandwiches prepared by their grandmother, the bread cut wafer thin. In their idle hours they (p.159) amused themselves in their grandfather’s shop, hanging over the shoulders of the old market gardeners and being treated to bits of pork or chicken. His memories richly convey a sense of family and belonging, but nothing in what he had to say suggests a happy relationship between his grandparents.


What can be known of Lin, Ruby’s mother, whom we meet first in the courtroom, ‘a slight, frail woman, in deep mourning and weeping quietly’?49 A photo taken for her application for renewal of residential status in 1948 shows a woman in the ordinary dress of those times, a button-through dress, her hair parted in the middle and done up at the sides (Figure 7.1). Her birthplace is given as Canton and her nationality as Chinese, but she had lived in Perth for nearly fifty years and, not surprisingly, she looks Australian and Chinese at the same time. Her full name in Chinese is given as Hop Lin Jong (possibly 鍾合蓮‎ C: jūng hahplìhn, M: zhōng hélián). She was also known as Lucy, which tells us something about her: she interacted with the English-speaking community.

An earlier certificate, dating from 1939, remarks on Lin’s good English. Question marks appear next to both the year of her birth, 1886, and the year of her arrival, 1901, but these seem to refer to the absence of a precise date (day and month) rather (p.160) than doubt as to years mentioned. She arrived in Australia on the SS Australind, which plied a route ‘from Singapore, via coastal ports’.50 It is probable that the ship carried Chinese migrants on each of its trips. The claimed ages of the young Chinese on some of these voyages adds an element of doubt to her birthdate: it is possible that she was seeking to arrive as a minor and was brought out by someone either in debt to Lee Wood or who could profit from obtaining a bride for him. Jong Shing How, charged with conducting a gaming house in 1909 and thought to be in the employ of a more prominent figure, is a candidate for this role.51 A man of this surname, with this sort of relationship to Lee Wood, is a plausible link in the human chain that brought Lin to Fremantle.

Missing Ruby

Figure 7.1: Lin Lee Wood, 1948.

National Archives of Australia (NAA: K1331, CHINESE/LEE WOOD L)

The earliest image we have of Lin is her wedding photo, which shows a well-dressed young woman in a ruffled blouse and tailored skirt. Her left hands holds a bouquet of flowers; her right rests on Lee Wood’s arm, no doubt on the photographer’s instruction.52 Even if she was somewhat older than the fifteen years indicated by immigration records, the age gap between the two, perhaps twenty-five years, is palpable.53 Huping Ling attributes age differences of this order, characteristic of diaspora marriages, primarily to the shortage of women consequent on immigration restrictions, but in fact they were typical of second marriages for men in China.54 It is possible that Lin was a second wife.

There were few Chinese women in Perth when Lin arrived: census figures show eighteen women of Chinese nationality in the whole of Western Australia. But the European wives of Chinese men added to the size of the community. When Lin gave birth to her first child in 1902, who was at hand to help? A possible midwife was Elizabeth Gipp, the wife of Charlie Ah You.55 The Gipps moved to Western Australia from Melbourne in the 1890s, and their youngest child, Florence, was born in Perth in 1899. Lin was present at Elizabeth’s funeral in 1922, and Lee Wood was a pall-bearer, so the family relationship must have been close.56 A mother of six sons and five daughters, very much mourned in passing, Elizabeth looks just the sort of person to have helped out with the confinements of other women.

Lin may, in turn, have assisted at the births of the Gooey children, the eldest of whom was born in 1905, a year after Ruby, and one of whom married her younger son. Her own five children were born at intervals of two years between 1902 and 1910. There is evidence that an ideal family size in China was five children, in the (p.161) ratio of three boys to two girls.57 With the birth of their second son in April 1910, the Lee Woods has achieved this ideal family size, although with the ratio of boys to girls reversed. They named their youngest child William but called him ‘Boy,’ which in Cantonese means precious and is a common endearment for babies. Judging by the appearance of his nickname on the family gravestone in Karrakatta, he kept this name for the whole of his life. There were no more children after Boy.

In the course of raising her family, Lin learned to speak English, as did her children, who grew up in a Chinese-speaking home situated in an English-speaking neighbourhood. Public schools were built at Highgate and Northbridge in 1895 and 1896, probably close to where the Lee Woods lived.58 Highgate was closer to Tiverton Street, and James Street Public School, near to the Beaufort Street Bridge, was close to Perth’s Chinatown, where Lee Wood had his business. The Gipp children attended the James Street school.59 It is probable that the Lee Wood children went to one or the other of these schools, as did the next generation of the family.60 Both schools had technical training as well as academic classes: the boys did woodwork, and the girls cooked and did laundry. Hand sewing and even machine sewing appears to have been offered no later than 1908.61

Lin herself could probably sew. In North America women in the Chinese diaspora sewed for their families, and for income.62 The same must have been true of their counterparts in Australia. A photo of May and Ruby at the ages of around three and eighteen months, respectively, shows the two small girls wearing ruffled dresses, the detailed handiwork showing evidence of some skill and patience on the part of the maker.63 Making clothes for the children at home was a common practice at the time, in both Australia and China, and was greatly facilitated by the advent of the sewing machine, in use by Chinese tailors in Australia at least from the 1880s.64 The sewing of ruffles, especially, was aided by the use of a sewing machine, and indeed stimulated one of the early advances in sewing machine technology.65

The house that Bill Chiew refers to as ‘grandma’s house’ was occupied by the family probably from 1915 onward. Tiverton Street was in walking distance of the city. Two blocks south via Beaufort Street lay James Street, Perth’s Chinatown, where (p.162) the Chung Wah clubhouse stood. An intrepid reporter from the Sunday Times made his way there sometime early in March 1922 and reported with delighted horror on the sights to be seen behind the facade of street-front businesses and residences: the ‘tangle of little ways, lanes and alleys’ with gaming tables all around and sausages hanging from rafters.66 The sausages were probably made by Lee Wood. ‘They were real handmade,’ recalled Bill. ‘They’d mix all the meat, put it through the sausage machine and get the skins, and they’d make all these … Lup Cheung—that’s what they call them in Chinese.’ Once a month, on sausage-making day, Lin would go down to the Chung Wah building and help with the making of the sausages. Bill recalled that she had ‘a crook leg’:

She broke her ankle somehow and of course she didn’t go to the doctor and it sort of semi-healed … She used to work like hell. She used to work at grandad’s shop. She’d walk there and she had this crook ankle, when they used to make sausages, they were probably making them once a month, I suppose. No one used to give her a lift.

According to a newspaper report of 1925, the family home was a ‘comfortably furnished timber house’.67 Bill remembers differently:

It was a funny sort of house, four rooms, and on the back verandah kitchen somehow all the floor was sloping down. … The roof of the room there [had] a 12 inch drop on it so everything [had] … the legs cut away and all that. We normally used to sit on wooden boxes, not many chairs.68

Bill’s memories of his grandmother’s house seem to date from the early thirties, when he was in primary school. It is possible that the house had become run-down since his birth. More probably, the reporter had never actually stepped inside the house and had no idea what the furniture was like.

Tiverton Street is not very long, around 100 metres end to end. There are no family homes there now, but in 1925 it was the address of perhaps a dozen families, of whom only the Lee Woods were Chinese. The pattern of social interaction between the various residents of the street cannot now be known, but judging by Bill’s experience of nearby Bulwer Street in the 1930s, relations between Chinese and non-Chinese were on the whole neighbourly.69 The more important relationships of the Lee Wood family undoubtedly involved members of the local Chinese community, and all five of the Lee Wood children married within the community. Only in the next generation (Bill’s) did intermarriage occur.

What role Lin played in the marriages of her children is unclear. The influence of relations between the men concerned are more obvious. May married See (p.163) Chiew, also known as Ah Chiew or Timothy See Chiew (趙西周‎? C: jiuh sāijāu, M: zhào xīzhōu), who with his brother ran a local firm called J. & S. Chiew that lasted until the 1960s. The elder brother was probably Ah Chew (趙仲周‎ C: jiuh juhngjāu, M: zhào zhòngzhōu), who like Lee Wood was among the founders of the Chung Wah Association.70 Ruby’s marriage was facilitated by George Way (謝華威‎C: jeh wàhwāi, M: xiè huáwēi), who combined business as a herbalist with matchmaking services for the Chinese community. George had succeeded in 1918 to the herbalist practice of Lee Sho Hen (李壽田‎ C: léih sauhtìhn, M: lǐ shòutián), another of the Chung Wah founders. These overlapping references are to be expected in such a small community, but they also point to close networking between male members of the community.

May’s wedding to Timothy Chiew took place in 1922. Two years later the Lee Wood family was busy preparing for Ruby’s wedding to Leong Yen. According to an investigative article in Truth, Lin accompanied Ruby on visits to Leong Yen more than once during the period of the engagement, helping to negotiate the price of an engagement ring.71 Truth was primarily interested in illustrating the mercenary character of Chinese wedding transactions, but this minor detail is suggestive of a (p.164) busy coming and going on the part of mother and daughter in the weeks leading up to the wedding. The visits to Leong Yen took place in George Way’s shop at 380 William Street, around five minutes’ walk from Tiverton Street.

Missing Ruby

Figure 7.2: Photograph of the wedding of Ruby Lee Wood to Leong Yen. From left to right: Lin Lee Wood, James Lee Wood (senior), Leong Yen, Ruby Yen, Dolly Lee Wood, unknown possibly James Lee Wood (junior).

Truth (Perth), August 1, 1925, p. 5

Ruby’s wedding took place at the Trinity Congregational Church in St Georges Terrace. Lin may have helped Ruby make the fashionable wedding dress her daughter wore on the day, with its straight 1920s line and long veil (Figure 7.2, see p. 163). In the wedding photo, splashed over the daily papers after Ruby’s death, Lin herself looks the competent matriarch of a grown family, her dress rather old-fashioned, her bearing dignified. She must have been feeling just slightly apprehensive at the time this photo was taken because Leong Yen was coming home to live with Ruby in the family home in Tiverton Street.

Leong Yen

For all the attention paid to him in 1925, very little is known about Leong Yen. At the time of his arrest he had not been in Australia for very long. In 1924 he was refused a Certificate for Exemption from the Dictation Test in Melbourne, signifying that he had sought to return to China for a visit within a couple of years of arrival.72 He may have had a wife there. Court reports from Melbourne in 1923 include a case of one Jow Wick being charged with causing grievous bodily harm to a man called Leong Yen, who spent three weeks in hospital recovering from knife wounds incurred in the attack.73 These events are consistent with Leong Yen’s having left Melbourne for Perth in 1924, and with the large number of scars recorded for him in the jail register: forearm, stomach, kneecap, side of eye, cheekbone, and ‘a large scar at side back of head’.74

He was twenty-nine at the time of the trial, eight years older than Ruby. The West Australian described him as ‘diminutive’,75 but the jail register gives his height as five feet and seven inches, only half an inch shorter than the average soldier would have been at the time.76 The reason he looked diminutive to the reporter may be simply that this is how Chinese were viewed. According to the same paper he looked like ‘the intelligent type of Chinese’, the inference being that he did not look like a market gardener. The wedding photos show that he and Ruby made a handsome couple. He could read and write ‘a little’ in English and may have had some schooling in it.

(p.165) Difficulty in making ends meet may have been among the push factors in his migration from Melbourne to Western Australia. In Fremantle he had relatives, or at least close connections, father-and-son laundry proprietors Hop Wah and Ah How, whose Chinese surname was Leong.77 They were from Kaiping, allowing us to identify Leong Yen, too, as a Kaiping native. The matchmaker George Way was also a native of Kaiping, which may have played a role in his acting on Leong Yen’s behalf very soon after the latter’s arrival in Perth.

As a live-in son-in-law, Leong Yen was in a less than desirable social position after his marriage, even given that people far from home had to make pragmatic decisions about family and living circumstances. In China marriage meant, and to a considerable degree was constituted by, the bride going to the home of her parents-in-law. Adoption of a son-in-law was a measure sometimes taken by a family that lacked a son of their own, and hence heirs, but in such circumstances the son-in-law and his family suffered a loss of social standing and his position in his wife’s family was typically weak.78 The ritual subordination of the wife to the authority of the male line through naofang (鬧房‎ C: naauhfóng), or ‘nuptial hazing’, was impossible to effect in such a marriage, and in marital disputes the man was at a disadvantage: his wife had too many allies on hand. That disputes soon erupted is clear. Ruby and Leong Yen’s wedding took place in June, and in December his mother-in-law locked him out of the house.

It seems that Leong Yen worked for Lee Wood in the early months of his marriage. After being ejected from the Tiverton Street house in December, he went to live in Fremantle with his relatives, and may have been employed there in their laundry business. Ruby had been unwell in August and had undergone an operation. In January she was again ill and underwent an operation for appendicitis. Leong Yen is known to have visited her regularly during this period, making the forty-minute journey on the train from Fremantle three times a week. He paid for the hospital bills. It seems from this as though he was eager to set the marriage, and his relations with the Lee Wood family, to rights. His father-in-law was at one with him. When Ruby came out of hospital, Leong Yen moved back into the house in Tiverton Street. Lee Wood helped him buy a grocery store, and a new phase of domestic life began, though very obviously not a happy one, for Ruby and he slept in different bedrooms.79

(p.166) Leong Yen’s greengrocery, in Subiaco, was one of a cluster of businesses located at the junction of Hay Street and Coghlan Road. Directly adjacent to it, within the one built structure, was a chemist shop. The building is still there, two rooms wide and one deep, with a house now tacked onto the rear. The distance from Tiverton Street to the shop in Subiaco was just under four kilometres. Leong Yen usually left for work at around half past seven in the morning, returning after dark—not until between half past nine and half past ten according to Lin. He might spend the evening in James Street before returning home. On Monday, July 13, he went as usual to the market in James Street to purchase vegetables for the shop and afterwards had lunch with his father-in-law. That night he did not return home until very late.80

According to the account Leong Yen subsequently gave to the police, Ruby was with him at the shop until three o’clock, then said she was going home to help her mother make a dress. He insisted she stay at the shop with him, and seeking to detain her, caught at her coat with one hand and her throat with the other. In the ensuing struggle he accidentally hit her ‘on her operation’, causing her to collapse. To Lee Wood he confessed that he thought initially she was not dead, ‘but she was dead.’81 Fearful of the consequences for himself (‘I very frightened,’ he repeatedly stated in court), he sought means to dispose of the body. A taxicab driver, James Gillon, testified to helping him lift a trunk into the boot of the car and driving him down to an address in Fremantle—the site of Hop Wah’s laundry.82 How Ruby’s body was then conveyed to the harbour was never clarified, but according to Leong Yen he carried it himself.83 Afterwards, he took the forty-minute train ride back to Perth and walked home.

The house in Tiverton Street was small, and Lin must have heard him come in. In September she answered the queries of the Crown Prosecutor thus:

  • – Yen did not call at the shop that night.

  • – I did not see him till Tuesday morning. Did not speak to him.

  • – He came to the shop on Tuesday night. I did not speak to him.

  • – I saw him on Wed. morning and night.

  • – On Wed. night he said policeman had been to see him at his shop.

  • – That’s all he said.

  • – I said I know police been to your shop. If you murder my daughter police catch you.84

A week later, Ruby’s body was found.

(p.167) Ruby

The forensic report submitted to the coronial inquest shows a young woman at home in the material world of 1920s Perth. Ruby’s hair was bobbed and tinted: her hairdresser, interviewed by the police, confirmed that Ruby had had a bob and tint just a few days before her death. She wore silk stockings, which at the time cost around ten shillings and sixpence a pair, earrings, and a ring on her finger. A ‘lady’s handbag’ was discovered together with her body. The contents included a nickel scent bottle, nail scissors, a ‘bobette’ comb, small card case, tweezers, a powder case, lip salve, nail paste, a nail file, eyebrow brush, face cream, hair pins, wax matches and part of matchbox, fancy needlework and hank of thread for same, two rings (one missing the stone), a pink handkerchief, and a ‘preventative article’, among other items.85

Nirad Chaudhuri’s phrase ‘culture in the vanity bag’ seems to capture the meanings in this small collection of personal possessions, so obviously the belongings of a young woman taking pride in her appearance—her nails, her eyebrows, her skin.86 She was pretty, ‘even by Western standards’, according to the Mirror.87 The vocabulary and some of the items mark the times. Nail polish or ‘nail polish paste’ was just beginning to supplant the older term ‘nail paste’ in advertising and beauty columns. The bobette comb, designed for shingled hair (the new, edgy bob), had not long come on to the market—the first advertisements in Perth newspapers had yet to run. Wax matches, later banned in Australia because of safety concerns, were still widely used; Ruby may have smoked cigarettes from time to time. The needlework and thread were consistent with her having been brought up by a Chinese mother: needlework was the definitive ‘women’s work’ in China. It was also consistent with the ‘present popularity of embroidery’ in Perth, as noted by the Daily News.88 Most of all, it made sense in the context of Ruby’s work history, for she was, reported the Mirror, ‘an expert dressmaker, and carried on a dressmaking business’.89

In fact, this was not the first time that Ruby’s name had appeared in a newspaper. Around the corner and up the road from Tiverton Street, in a two-storey ‘shop-house’ at 191 Beaufort Street, a Mrs S. Wilson presided over a ladies’ drapery that had been in operation since 1919. The business had been in difficulties in 1923 but was established on new footing in the latter part of that year when ‘Miss Lee-Wood (late of Galway and Bramley)’ was invited to take charge of the workroom.90 (p.168) This sort of shop was an institution typical of the textile and apparel sector in the nineteenth century, and one that in the 1920s was still holding its own against the big department store with its stock of prêt-à-porter. At Mrs Wilson’s, simple slip dresses that were fashionable in the post-war years could be purchased for eight shillings. A full lady’s outfit cost around a guinea. These were competitive prices, as the Ladies Section columnist pointed out, and Mrs Wilson’s need for an assistant in 1923 suggests a good customer base for her business.

How did Ruby acquire qualifications for this position? The professionalization of dressmaking in Australia was slow: in English-language countries generally, training institutes for dressmaking were rare and the professional dressmaker often started by ‘making frocks for friends’.91 In Ruby’s case, early training may have been provided by elementary sewing lessons at school, by her mother, and by an apprenticeship. The phrase ‘late Galway and Bramley’ was consistently appended to her name. This was presumably a drapery where she had at least some work experience. The post-war years may have been particularly opportune for a young woman seeking remunerative employment. In 1919, there were many advertisements for ‘tailoressess’ in the city of Perth, perhaps a consequence of labour shortages consequent on wartime losses.92

Ruby did not work in Mrs Wilson’s shop for very long. In November she set herself up as an independent dressmaker, advertising her services from her home base at 11 Tiverton Street. At not quite twenty years of age, she is visible to us through the tiny window of an advertisement in the West Australian: a young woman yet to achieve her majority, operating with apparent confidence in the social and economic environment of 1920s Perth.93 She was one of a generation of young women who, between the wars, were helping to normalize and standardize the idea of the working girl. In her wedding photo she looks the very image of ‘Miss Modern’.94 She continued to run advertisements for her business in early 1924, the last ad appearing on February 29.

The year 1924 was the year of the Rat, with Chinese New Year falling on February 4. It must have been around this time that Ruby was introduced to Leong Yen. According to Truth—apparently on the basis of information from George Way—Leong Yen had not been long in Perth before taking ‘a great fancy’ to Ruby.95 Ruby’s sister Mabel (‘Dolly’) testified at the inquest in August that she (Dolly) had first met Leong Yen one Sunday around three months before the couple’s wedding in June, and had been made aware at that time that Leong Yen wished to marry (p.169) her sister.96 Counting backwards, it seems reasonable to conclude that discussions leading to the engagement had commenced in February, and may have been a factor in the cessation of the dressmaking advertisements. The cultural logic in Chinese and Australian society was the same: a young unmarried woman might operate in the public sphere, but betrothal ultimately meant being absorbed into the private realm of the fiancé or husband. Afterwards, Ruby continued dressmaking on a commercial basis, perhaps in company with her mother, but evidently on the basis of an established reputation or word of mouth.

For Ruby and her sisters, the early 1920s were momentous years; work, marriage, and—in the case of May—childbirth marked significant stages of the life cycle. With May’s marriage in 1922, Ruby lost a daily companion: her sister moved to Robinson Avenue, not far away, but she was not free any more to go to the pictures on a Saturday with Ruby. By 1925 May was already the mother of three small children. Dolly was four years younger than Ruby, but a self-possessed young woman judging by newspaper reports.97 She was witness at Ruby’s wedding. The two sisters were close, living in the same house even after Ruby’s marriage, going out together, and occasionally working at the same place. Leong Yen gave Ruby money, Dolly told the inquest, and the two young women would go out to the pictures together.98 In Love with Love was just then showing, starring Marguerite de la Motte as ‘a girl of the modern type—gay, restless, exceedingly attractive, and completely without conscience’.99

Ruby and Dolly probably talked to each other in English, which was their native if not quite their mother tongue, and they no doubt knew much more than their parents about each other’s attitudes and sentiments. Questioned at the inquest about the relationship between Ruby and Leong Yen, both Lee Wood and Lin stated that they thought Ruby had liked Leong Yen, a statement qualified by Lin to mean that had been the case early in the marriage. At the trial Lee Wood was insistent: ‘They seemed to get on all right. I heard no complaints.’100 Dolly, on the other hand, testified, ‘They were not very happy together. My sister told she did not like her husband very much.’101

Something hinted at by Truth was the cultural difference between Leong Yen, a recent immigrant who had been born and brought up in China, and Ruby, Australian by birth and formal education. On the one hand, wrote the reporter, Leong Yen ‘had lived under English customs’ and had accordingly desired to go ‘courting’, but ‘the girl’s relations, following Chinese customs, would not hear of such a thing at all’. On the other hand, ‘as a Chinese, [Leong Yen] was not able to quite understand the (p.170) freedom that the white man allows his womenfolk’—a freedom apparently assumed by Ruby—and was ‘apt to be jealous whether he had any real reason for it or not’. It was allegedly on this account that he was ejected from the Lee Wood home in December 1924.102

Not even Truth, however, ventured to speculate in print about the most obvious problem in the marriage, which must have been exposed by the forensic report: the marriage had not been consummated. This was revealed in the court proceedings, and reported in the newspaper, although without comment.103 We cannot know whether it was discussed by the jury, but it is open to speculation that this factor, in combination with the revelation that Ruby’s handbag carried a ‘preventative article’, underpinned the jury’s sympathy for Leong Yen, and the strong recommendation for leniency.

The last day of Ruby’s life was a Monday. On the morning of July 13, 1925, she left home at 8:30 a.m. and called in at a shop in Beaufort Street, where her mother was working, in order to leave the house key with her. She must have been the last to leave the house that morning. It was the middle of the Perth winter, and she was wearing a coat of imitation fur. She reached the shop in Subiaco around 9.30 a.m.: Thomas Allan, the chemist in the neighbouring shop, saw her there. At 10 a.m., she came into the chemist’s to pay the rent. In response to a query from the coroner, Allan testified that Ruby ‘appeared depressed’.104 Later in the day, sometime before 1 p.m., Ruby visited the shop on the other side, a stationer’s, run by Mrs Ada O’Toole. A girl called Erna Rowland worked there, the same age as Dolly. It is possible that the girls were on friendly terms and that Ruby had called in for a chat. In any event, Mrs O’Toole did not say whether Ruby had bought anything, merely that she was ‘in my shop’. Erna’s name was listed among the witnesses for the inquest, but for some reason she was not called. As far as can be seen from the inquest and trial papers, the last person to see Ruby alive, apart from Leong Yen, was George Gerald Crisp, who owned the hairdressing salon across the road and testified at the inquest that he saw her inside the shop at one in the afternoon.105

How Ruby died is unclear. Leong Yen stated that he had caught her by the throat, but it seemed to the investigators that she had not been strangled. He said also that in the course of their altercation—in fact, in defending himself—he had inadvertently struck her in the stomach where she had recently had an operation. Considerable interest was taken in the small amount of strychnine found in her during the forensic examination. Despite the frequent mention of herbalist George Way at the inquest and trial, no comparable interest was taken in Chinese medicine: inquiries were confined to interrogation of the chemist next door.106 The amount (p.171) of strychnine was judged insufficient to have caused death. Other evidence of the precise cause of death may have been obscured by decomposition of the body—her body had been ten days in the water. Her father was asked to identify her and cried on viewing her remains.

They buried Ruby at Karrakatta Cemetery in Perth, in the Congregational section. Bill Chiew remembers going to Karrakatta as a child. His father would hire a sulky to take them all down every weekend, as if going to church. The overt purpose of this excursion was to stand before a headstone engraved in Chinese, a ritual that bewildered Bill until he learned that it bore the name of his father’s brother.107 He does not mention visiting the Congregational section, but perhaps his mother, May, on this weekly excursion, took the opportunity to visit her sister’s grave. Ruby’s gravestone is singular, made in the shape of a heart and engraved with the words ‘In loving memory of Ruby, beloved daughter of James and Lin Lee Wood’ (Figure 7.3). Her married name was omitted.

Missing Ruby

Figure 7.3: Heart-shaped stone in Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, marking Ruby Yen’s grave.

Photograph by the author

(p.172) Conclusion

The history of Chinese Australia has been written largely as a story of race relations, against a backdrop provided by the racialized immigration regime popularly referred to as the White Australia policy. The metanarrative, situated at the interface of Chinese immigrants and their Anglophone contemporaries, features a dichotomization of Chinese and white. Early studies mostly focus on policies and policing of immigration. While recent research shows the field turning to a ‘more Chinese-centred’ approach, to paraphrase Paul Cohen,108 the field as a whole is haunted by the issue of Chinese-white relations, and much scholarship continues to focus on exactly this. It is of course difficult to think of any respect in which race could be bypassed as an issue in Chinese Australian history, but its overwhelming significance as a factor in Chinese Australian life has meant that the sorts of categories employed and themes pursued in the social history of mainstream Australia—class and gender, urban and rural differentiation, religion, crime and punishment, and civil society, to name a few—have been only faintly recognized until now.

Thinking about intracommunity relations among Chinese permits a partial break with the topic of race relations to consider some less often considered historical issues. Some of these issues are not easy to raise, let alone to research: sexual relations, domestic violence, gender relations more broadly, rites of passage, and cultural maintenance or change in respect of intimate family life over time. The importance of these issues is underscored by the fact and manner of Ruby’s death. In this chapter they have been exposed and probed via a detailed plotting out of what can be known of Ruby and her family, a working-class immigrant family in 1920s Perth. The members of this family were ordinary people who made their livings through manual work and small-scale commerce. They were culturally endogamous in the first two generations; not until the grandchildren’s generation did any marital alliances include non-Chinese. They make a poor fit for the categorization of Australian Chinese families either as sojourning or as transnational. With the exception of Boy, who joined the Royal Australian Air Force, they were not particularly mobile even within Australia. They were gradually losing touch with China: even the earliest of the family gravestones, Ruby’s, lacked Chinese characters. They lived mostly below the radar. Only the untoward death of a daughter enables us to know much about them.

In the history of this family, the men enjoy a certain level of social visibility because of their connection with commercial interests and civil or political associations. The relationships between them deserve close examination. When the police sought information from Timothy See Chiew, he refused to divulge it because he was Leong Yen’s brother-in-law. When Leong Yen spoke to Lee Wood after he had seen the body, he did so in apparent confidence in the relationship, saying, ‘Don’t (p.173) cry, Father.’ When Lee Wood spoke of Leong Yen at the inquest, he did so without overt animosity.109 Lee Wood’s life was lived mainly in the intensely male community of James Street and the Chung Wah Association, where he not only worked but also resided. In his later years he lived not with his son, James, in Tiverton Street, but in the house of his son-in-law. Timothy See Chiew appears in many respects to have acted as the eldest son in this family. He later provided James Jr with employment, and perhaps Dolly’s husband as well. All these facts point to a degree of quasilineage male solidarity, a solidarity pragmatically built between men with family connections through marriage, in the absence of true lineage relationships. The role of the marriage broker, George Way, in developing these brotherly bonds is highly interesting. The matchmaker was central to marriage organization, and indeed to the recognition of marriage in China.110 It is a role that deserves study in the context of diaspora communities.

Relations between the female members of this family were likewise close. Unlike the adult males, the women were actually related to each other. The mother was highly capable: her English was good, she worked hard in whatever businesses her husband was involved in, and brought money into the household. She supported her elder daughter with daily care of the grandchildren during their school years.111 During the inquest into Ruby’s death she became bitterly distressed. Her younger daughter, Dolly, had to be called up to sit beside her before she was able to compose herself sufficiently to finish her testimony. She was perhaps disposed not to bear patiently with male behaviour. She disliked Leong Yen intensely, apparently not even looking at him if she could avoid it. The fact that Lee Wood lived away from the family home may have been his decision, but even so, her attitude to him may have been a factor. In a different country context, Huping Ling has remarked on the relatively high degree of personal independence enjoyed by women in the Chinese diaspora.112 This appears to have been true of Lin.

Somewhere out of this mix of relationships, Ruby ended up married to Leong Yen, and dying at the age of twenty-one. The intense public interest taken in the circumstances surrounding her death can be attributed in part to exotic elements in her life story, beginning with the actual fact of Chineseness. There is, however, little evidence that her death was attributed to this fact. Perhaps it was tacitly recognized that Ruby was one of many victims of spousal assault in 1920s Australia. Early estimates show that in approximately 77 percent of these cases the death came about as a result of the victim’s threat to leave her husband because of his violence.113 Thinking back to Lin’s action in turning Leong Yen out of the house in December, (p.174) it seems possible that violence had been inflicted on Ruby, too, at an earlier stage in the marriage. In any event, however greatly her life course was inflected by Chinese cultural factors, when considered from the perspective of her death, the story of her short marriage seems not un-Australian.

An opinion piece by the Tung Wah Times published after Leong Yen’s sentencing shows that there can be no clear cultural proprietorship of a story such as this. Wife killing was certainly an atrocity, admitted the paper, but when the loving husband is confronted by a wife who ‘finds advice hard to take’, trouble will inevitably ensue. The root of the problem in the paper’s view was ‘free choice’. Women tended to ‘misunderstand freedom and flout conventions’, to the point even of exercising their freedom to walk out of the marriage. Naturally, husbands became angry.114 The reference to wife killing here could have been to either Chinese or Australian cases: in neither place was the death of a woman at the hands of an enraged husband extraordinary.


(1.) Judith Allen, Sex and Secrets: Crimes Involving Australian Women Since 1880 (Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1990), pp. 132–39.

(2.) Elizabeth Nelson, ‘Civilian Men and Domestic Violence in the Aftermath of the First World War’, Journal of Australian Studies 76 (2003), pp. 99–108.

(4.) C. F. Yong, The New Gold Mountain: The Chinese in Australia, 1901–1921 (Richmond, South Australia: Raphael Arts, 1977), pp. 171–74; Janis Wilton, Golden Threads: The Chinese in Regional New South Wales, 1850–1950 (Armidale, New South Wales: New England Regional Art Museum, 2004), p. 55. See also Kate Bagnall, ‘Rewriting the History of Chinese Families in Nineteenth-Century Australia’, Australian Historical Studies 42 (2011), pp. 62–77.

(5.) See Mark Finnane, ‘Law as Politics: Chinese Litigants in Australian Colonial Courts,’ in Chinese Australians: Politics, Engagement and Resistance, ed. Sophie Couchman and Kate Bagnall (Leiden: Brill, 2015), pp. 117–36.

(6.) Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon, ‘“The Singularization of History”: Social History and Microhistory within the Postmodern State of Knowledge’, Journal of Social History 36, no. 3 (Spring 2003), pp. 701–35.

(7.) Amartya Sen, ‘More than 100 Million Women Are Missing’, New York Review of Books 7, no. 20 (December 20, 1990), pp. 61–66.

(8.) Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon, ‘The Life of a Working-Class Woman: Selective Modernization and Micro-history in Early 20th-Century Iceland’, Scandanavian Journal of History 36, no. 2 (May 2011), p. 188.

(10.) See Kate Bagnall, ‘A Journey of Love: Agnes Breuer’s Sojourn in 1930s China,’ in Transnational Ties: Australian Lives in the World, ed. Desley Deacon, Penny Russell, and Angela Woollacott (Canberra: ANU Press, 2008), pp. 115–34.

(11.) Photograph of May and Ruby Leewood, c. 1905, Chiew Family Collection, in Chinese Historical Images in Australia (CHIA) [online database], http://www.chia.chinesemuseum.com.au/objects/D003742.htm; ‘Dead Body Found in Sack’, Mirror (Perth), July 25, 1925, pp. 1–2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page7435337; ‘Life at Its Best and Worst’, Sunday Times (Perth), July 26, 1925, p 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58222294..

(12.) William Chiew with Felicity Morel-Ednie Brown, ‘Interview of William Chiew on 15 February 2008 for the Northbridge History Project’, Felicity Morel-Ednie Brown (interviewer), Northbridge History Project, NBHOH-164.

(13.) Geoffrey Bolton, A Fine Country to Starve In (Nedlands, Western Australia: University of Western Australia Press in association with Edith Cowan University, 1996).

(14.) Patricia Grimshaw and Katherine Ellinghaus, ‘White Women, Aboriginal Women and the Vote in Western Australia’, in Women and Citizenship: Suffrage Centenary, ed. Patricia Crawford and Judy Skene, special issue of Studies in WA History Journal 19 (1999), pp. 1–19; Jasmina Brankovitch, ‘Votes for All Women: Racialised Silences in Western Australian Suffrage Historiography’, in Women and Citizenship: Suffrage Centenary, ed. Patricia Crawford and Judy Skene, special issue of Studies in WA History Journal 19 (1999), pp. 20–28.

(15.) Immigration Restriction Act 1897 (Western Australia), http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/wa/num_act/ira189761vn13354/.

(16.) Jan Ryan, Ancestors: Chinese in Colonial Australia (South Fremantle, Western Australia: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1995), p. 68.

(17.) Factories Act 1904 (Western Australia), http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/wa/num_act/fa19043evn37201/.

(18.) Ann Atkinson, ‘Chinese Labour and Capital in Western Australia, 1847–1947’ (PhD diss., Murdoch University, 1991), p. 1; Tianming Cai, ‘Astride Two Worlds: The Chinese Response to Changing Citizenship in Western Australia (1901–1973)’ (MA diss., Edith Cowan University, 1999), p. 53.

(19.) Kate Bagnall, ‘Anglo-Chinese and the Politics of Chinese Overseas Travel from New South Wales, 1898–1925’, in Chinese Australians: Politics, Engagement and Resistance, ed. Sophie Couchman and Kate Bagnall (Leiden: Brill, 2015), p. 207.

(24.) ‘Dangxun: Pufufu tongxun 黨訊‎ 普扶阜通訊‎ [Party news: newsletter from the port of Perth]’, Chinese Times (民報‎ Minbao), February 11, 1922, p. 6, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/168667510.

(25.) For earlier photos of Lee Wood and his family, see Chiew Family Collection, in CHIA [online database], http://www.chia.chinesemuseum.com.au/archives/ACH000852.htm.

(26.) See her obituary, ‘Death of Mrs G. Randell, Sen.’, West Australian, January 27, 1897, p. 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3106161.

(27.) ‘Lai han 來函‎ (Incoming correspondence)’, Tung Wah Times (東華新報‎ Donghua xinbao), January 20, 1906.

(29.) ‘Xisheng Pufufu shiyinian zhiyuan biao’ 西省普扶阜十一年職員表‎ [(Party) membership list for (Minguo) year 11 (1922), Perth, Western Australia], Chinese Times, March 11, 1922, p. 6, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/15346302.

(30.) See Alanna Kamp’s chapter in this volume (Chapter 5).

(31.) Mei-fen Kuo and Judith Brett, Unlocking the History of the Australasian Kuo Min Tang 1911–2013 (North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2013), p. 36.

(33.) ‘Bereavement Notices’, West Australian, June 8, 1946, p. 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50345372; ‘Deaths’, West Australian, May 16, 1946, p. 14, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50341237.

(35.) Wedding portrait of James and Lin Leewood, c. 1901, Chiew Family Collection, in CHIA [online database], http://www.chia.chinesemuseum.com.au/objects/D003738.htm.

(36.) Antonia Finnane, ‘Changing Spaces and Civilized Weddings’, in New Narratives of Urban Space in Republican Chinese Cities: Emerging Social, Legal, and Governance Orders, ed. Billy Kee Long So and Madeleine Zelin (Brill, Leiden, 2013), p. 13.

(37.) ‘Chinese Wife Refused Maintenance’, Recorder (Port Pirie, South Australia), January 28, 1933, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article95990357.

(38.) C. K. Yang, Chinese Communist Society: The Family and the Village (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1965), p. 84.

(39.) See Sophie Couchman’s chapter in this volume (Chapter 3).

(40.) Atkinson, ‘Chinese Labour and Capital in Western Australia’, p. 175. Lee Wood’s purchase of the Kwong Lee business is recorded in the advertising columns of the West Australian, April 29, 1914, p. 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26903957.

(42.) ‘Legal Notices’, Daily News (Perth), May 12, 1910, p. 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77833309.

(43.) ‘Xi’aosheng zhi paiya fengchao 西澳省之排亞風潮‎ [Wave of anti-Asianism in Western Australia]’, Chinese Times, August 10, 1912, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article168678532.

(45.) ‘Notice is Hereby Given’, West Australian, May 2, 1914, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26904241.

(46.) ‘News and Notes’, West Australian, December 23, 1915, p. 6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26966748.

(47.) Chiew, ‘Interview’.

(48.) ‘Funeral Notices’, West Australian, May 15, 1946, p. 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50341018.

(49.) ‘Chinese Murder Case’, West Australian, August 12, 1925, p. 10, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31873790.

(50.) ‘Notes’, Western Mail, November 16, 1901, p. 31, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33214838.

(51.) ‘Asiatic Gamblers’, Western Mail, August 7, 1909, p. 30, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37587778.

(52.) Wedding portrait of James and Lin Leewood, c. 1901, Chiew Family Collection, in CHIA [online database], http://www.chia.chinesemuseum.com.au/objects/D003738.htm.

(53.) ‘Funeral Notices’ (Lee Wood), West Australian, May 15, 1946, p. 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50341018.

(54.) Huping Ling, ‘Family and Marriage of Late-Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth Century Chinese Immigrant Women’, Journal of American Ethnic History 19, no. 2 (2000), pp. 52–53; James Lee and Feng Wang, One Quarter of Humanity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), p. 72.

(56.) ‘Obituary: The Late Mrs. Elizabeth Gipp’, Daily News (Perth), October 16, 1922, p. 7, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article83155337.

(57.) Boye De Mente, The Chinese Mind: Understanding Traditional Chinese Beliefs and Their Influence on Contemporary Culture (North Clarendon: Tuttle Publishing, 2011), p. 90.

(58.) ‘New Public School’, Inquirer and Commercial News, July 24, 1896, p. 11, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page6589076; ‘School Speech Days’, Daily News (Perth), December 19, 1896, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81330086.

(60.) Chiew, ‘Interview’.

(61.) ‘Sewing in State Schools’, West Australian, June 11, 1908, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28843723.

(63.) Photograph of May and Ruby Leewood, c. 1905, Chiew Family Collection, in Chinese Historical Images in Australia (CHIA) [online database], http://www.chia.chinesemuseum.com.au/objects/D003742.htm.

(64.) ‘Wounding with Intent to Do Grievous Bodily Harm’, Northern Territory Times, June 5, 1886, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3159582.

(65.) Autumn Stanley, Mothers and Daughters of Invention: Notes for a Revised History of Technology (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995), p. 299.

(66.) Geoffrey M. Jacoby, ‘Chinatown: Smells, Scenes and Sausages—the Chinese at Home’, Sunday Times (Perth), March 5, 1922, p. 17, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58026822.

(67.) ‘The Body in the Bag’, Daily News, July 24, 1925, p. 13, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78442599.

(68.) Chiew, ‘Interview’.

(69.) Chiew, ‘Interview’.

(70.) C. H. Chan (ed.), Chung Wah Association Centenary Celebration Souvenir Publication (1910–2010), (Northbridge, Western Australia: Chung Wah Association, 2010), p. 60.

(71.) ‘Tragedy of Ruby Leong Yen’, Truth (Perth), August 8, 1925, p. 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208126866.

(72.) ‘Leong Yen (Ah Leong Sing) – Issue of Certificate for Exemption from Dictation Test Refused’ (Collector of Customs, Melbourne, 1924), National Archives of Australia: B13, 1924/2206.

(73.) ‘Alleged Stabbing’, Daily News (Perth), March 7, 1923, p. 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77899404.

(74.) Prisoner 12431, ‘Register – Prisoners 12097 – 13280’, Registers – Local Prisoners (Male) (Fremantle Prison, 1924–1927), State Records Office of Western Australia (SROWA): AU WA S672–cons4173 15.

(75.) ‘Chinese Murder Case’, West Australian, August 12, 1925, p. 10, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31873790.

(76.) Greg Whitwell, Christine De Souza, and Stephen Nicholas, ‘Height, Health and Economic Growth in Australia, 1860–1940,’ in Health and Welfare During Industrialization, ed. Richard H. Steckel and Roderick Floud (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), p. 391.

(77.) They were 梁亞有‎ (C: lèuhng ayáuh, M: liáng yàyǒu) and 梁西豪‎ (C: lèuhng sāihòuh, M: liáng xīháo), respectively. Cai, ‘Astride Two Worlds’, pp. 279–80; ‘The Death of Ruby Leong Yen’, Truth (Perth), September 12, 1925, p. 7, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208127250.

(78.) James P. McGough, ‘Deviant Marriage Patterns in Chinese Society,’ in Normal and Abnormal Behaviour in Chinese Culture, ed. Arthur Kleinman and Tsang-yi Lin (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1981), pp. 178–80.

(79.) Chief Justice McMillan Criminal Bench Book, Judges’ Bench Notes (Supreme Court of Western Australia, 1925–1926), SROWA: AU WA S174–cons4459 057, pp. 67–69. ‘Chinese Murder Case’, West Australian, September 8, 1925, p. 8, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/31878954; ‘Tragedy of Ruby Leong Yen’, Truth (Perth), August 8, 1925, p. 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208126866..

(80.) Chief Justice McMillan Criminal Bench Book, pp. 41–42.

(81.) ‘The Evidence: Lee Chiew’s Story’, Daily News (Perth), September 7, 1925, p. 6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78441929.

(82.) Chief Justice McMillan Criminal Bench Book, p. 53.

(83.) ‘The Evidence: Lee Chiew’s Story’, Daily News (Perth), September 7, 1925, p. 6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78441929.

(84.) Chief Justice McMillan Criminal Bench Book, p. 42.

(85.) ‘Telling the Tragic Story of Ruby Leong Yen’s Death’, Truth (Perth), August 15, 1925, p. 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208126932.

(86.) Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Culture in the Vanity Bag: Being an Essay on Clothing and Adornment in Passing and Abiding India (Bombay: Jaico Publishing House, 1976).

(87.) ‘Dead Body Found in Sack’, Mirror (Perth), July 25, 1925, p. 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page7435337.

(88.) ‘Petit Point Embroidery’, Daily News (Perth), September 27, 1924, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78438341.

(89.) ‘Dead Body Found in Sack’, Mirror (Perth), July 25, 1925, p. 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page7435337.

(90.) ‘Businesses’, West Australian, May 15, 1923, p. 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22625020; ‘Situations Wanted’, October 27, 1923, p. 20, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31196232..

(91.) ‘The Wardrobe: Dressmaking’, West Australian, November 14, 1930, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33223988.

(92.) ‘Situations Vacant’, West Australian, June 10, 1919, p. 8, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27607394.

(93.) ‘Situations Wanted’, West Australian, November 27, 1923, p. 12, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31201687.

(94.) See Penny Tinkler, ‘Women and Popular Literature’, in Women’s History: Britain, 1850–1945, ed. Jane Purvis (New York: Routledge, 2008), p. 121.

(95.) ‘Tragedy of Ruby Leong Yen’, Truth (Perth), August 8, 1925, p. 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208126866.

(96.) ‘Mystery of Ruby Yen’s Death’, Daily News (Perth), August 11, 1925, p. 8, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78443810.

(97.) ‘Chinese Murder Case’, West Australian, August 12, 1925, p. 10, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31873790.

(98.) Chief Justice McMillan Criminal Bench Book.

(99.) ‘Movies and Mummers’, Sunday Times (Perth), July 12, 1925, p. 15, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58221323.

(100.) Chief Justice McMillan Criminal Bench Book, p. 48.

(101.) Chief Justice McMillan Criminal Bench Book.

(102.) ‘Tragedy of Ruby Leong Yen’, Truth (Perth), August 8, 1925, p. 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208126866.

(103.) Chief Justice McMillan Criminal Bench Book, p. 67.

(104.) Chief Justice McMillan Criminal Bench Book, p. 49.

(105.) ‘Mystery of Ruby Yen’s Death’, Daily News (Perth), August 11, 1925, p. 8, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78443810.

(106.) See Kee C. Huang, The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs (Florida: CRC Press, 1999), p. 164.

(107.) Chiew, ‘Interview’.

(108.) Paul Cohen, Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984).

(109.) ‘Chinese Murder Case’, West Australian, August 12, 1925, p. 10, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31873790.

(110.) Haun Saussy, The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), p. 120.

(111.) Chiew, ‘Interview’.

(113.) Judith Allen, ‘The Invention of the Pathological Family: A Historical Study of Family Violence in N.S.W.’, in Family Violence in Australia, ed. Carol O’Donnel and Jan Craney (Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1982), p. 7.

(114.) ‘Huaren shaqi’an zhi panjue 華人殺妻案之判決‎ [Judgement in a Chinese wife-killing case]’, Tung Wah Times, September 19, 1925, p. 7, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/24101285.