by Xiaolan Bao
University of Illinois Press, 2001
eISBN: 978-0-252-05541-6 | Paper: 978-0-252-07350-2 | Cloth: 978-0-252-02631-7
Library of Congress Classification HD6073.C6U533 2001
Dewey Decimal Classification 331.488708995107


In 1982, 20,000 Chinese-American garment workers—most of them women—went on strike in New York City. Every Chinese garment industry employer in the city soon signed a union contract. The successful action reflected the ways women's changing positions within their families and within the workplace galvanized them to stand up for themselves. 

Xiaolan Bao's now-classic study penetrates to the heart of Chinese American society to explain how this militancy and organized protest, seemingly so at odds with traditional Chinese female behavior, came about. Drawing on more than one hundred interviews, Bao blends the poignant personal stories of Chinese immigrant workers with the interwoven history of the garment industry and the city's Chinese community. Bao shows how the high rate of married women employed outside the home profoundly transformed family culture and with it the image and empowerment of Chinese American women. At the same time, she offers a complex and subtle discussion of the interplay of ethnic and class factors within New York's garment industry. 

Passionately told and prodigiously documented, Holding Up More Than Half the Sky examines the journey of a community's women through an era of change in the home, on the shop floor, and walking the picket line.