in honour of women’s history month

march is women’s history month. I periodically pick up random goodies in the archive, without any particular reason other than that it interests me. and serendipitiously, this month is a good time to share one of them: two women’s day memorial songs, bellowed in jubilant unison by legions of Chinese women on International Women’s Day in Singapore. Brief sense of context: it is 1938, and Singapore is full of Chinese sojourners still largely loyal to mainland China. Hearts are afire with a potent conflation of feminism and communist nationalism.

Translations as follow:

Women’s Day Song
March the eighth, March the eighth,
It is the day when women of the world break their chains.
Unite and arise! Henceforth we’ll not be bullocks or horses.
We’ll struggle for our own rice.
And will not listen to your drivel about the duties and virtues of women.
We’ll struggle for emancipation.
And not be tied up in the kitchen and in the up-bringing of children.
We’ll arm and recover territories that have been snatched from us.
We’ll unite and struggle against those who have robbed us of our freedom.
We’ll lay a foundation for Liberty and Equality and root out feudalism.
Beloved sisters, let’s all join in effort.

Women’s National Salvation Song
Sisters, unite and arise.
Be responsible for the rise and fall of the nation.
Hark, the masses are singing aloud.
Alas, piece after piece of territory has been lost.
Do we want a prolonged war, or will we surrender?
We’ll be masters and die in the battlefield.
We’ll not be slaves; we will be prosperous.
Yesterday we were silent.
Today we are united.
Yesterday we were pitiful lambs.
But we will stir up the billows of national salvation.
Billows and billows shall rise continuously.
Sisters, sisters, out with your strength.
Be responsible for the rise and fall of the nation.

Hong Kong was rather less musically extravagant, & chose instead to celebrate International Women’s Day 1938 with a meeting sponsored by the Hong Kong YWCA (Young Woman’s Christian Association) and Chinese Women Soldiers Relief Association. Resolutions passed at this meeting, deemed most essential to further the cause & status of women in Hong Kong:

  1. Use Chinese Goods as Much as Possible
  2. Refrain from Smoking and Gambling
  3. Cut Down All Extravagance
  4. Be Punctual

ah, archives. sometimes I think about how historians of the future will ferret out snippets of the past like this; how seriously we take ourselves today, and how quickly and ruthlessly time will render this seriousness totally comical.


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