Earlier this month, history major Lijun (Karen) Zhang '21 was awarded the Lampert Award for Outstanding Scholarship. Her research project, "Looking for Women's Voice: The Portrayal of Revolutionary Women in Contemporary Chinese Museums and History Textbooks" contends that "women's political activism in pursuit of gender equality is an understudied feature of twentieth century Chinese history. Influenced by global feminist thought that challenged the existing patriarchal dynastic rule and oppressive practices in feudal society, groups of educated Chinese women actively published journals and started girls’ schools to disseminate new thoughts on gender equality, as well as organized uprisings and protests against the existing system that oppressed women in the first half of twentieth century. These women organized numerous women’s rights organizations and worked closely with the Nationalist and the Communist Parties to pursue equal rights with men."
However, as Zhang writes, "the vibrant past of women’s activist movements remains largely absent in the official Chinese historical narrative and unknown to the masses of the Chinese public. While the official narrative sometimes acknowledges women’s role as patriotic citizens in the revolutions, almost no traces of feminist commitments and women’s liberation can be found. The absence of these activist voices has important political implications, since it naturalizes men’s monopoly of political power, while women were, and simply remain, the passive receivers of the rights and benefits offered by men. Moreover, the silences of the feminist past in China also deprives present feminists of the past legacy that could serve as empowerment and inspiration."
During the summer of 2019--funded by the Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs, and based on work she began in HIST 199 (History Workshop), HIST 211 (Women's Rights in US History), and HIST 251 (The Politics of History)--Zhang explored the visibility of Chinese women of the revolutionary era ,1895-1949. Ultimately, her Lampert project argues, "the political purposes of national education limit the possibility of presenting an accurate portrayal of women’s voices in the revolutionary era in Chinese official historical narrative."
Karen who is a double major with History and Philosophy was also awarded the Raphael Lemkin Essay Prize in Religion. Congratulations to Karen Zhang!