Friday, December 10, 2021

Photography: The First Chinese Women Lawyer and Doctor in the United States

According to numerous newspaper reports, the first Chinese women lawyer and doctor in the United States were Yarlock Lowe and Josephine Grace Chan. 


Yarlock Lowe was born on April 3, 1890, in California. (Her first name may have been Yar-lock.) Lowe’s family has not yet been found in the 1900 United States Federal Census. The 1910 census enumerated the Lowe family in Oakland, California at 6433 Benvenue Avenue. Lowe’s father was president of an import company. 

The Oakland Tribune (California), January 28, 1913, listed the graduates, including Lowe, of Oakland High School. A photograph of Lowe appeared in the January 31, 1913 issue.

The Tribune, April 16, 1913, said “Yarlock Lowe, a Chinese student, who was graduated in January, entered the University of California and is registered in the College of Social Science.”

Lowe was a member of the Chinese Students’ Alliance in California. The Chinese Student’s Directory: 1914–1915 included Lowe and two of her siblings. 
Lowe, Miss Salaine, 9, Oakland High; 6433 Benvenue Ave. Oakland, Cal.
Lowe, S. K., 9, Oakland Tech. High; 6433 Benvenue Ave. Oakland, Cal.
Lowe, Miss Yarlock, 9, Univ. of Cal.; 6433 Benvenue Ave. Oakland, Cal.
The San Francisco Call (California), February 4, 1914, published an article about Lowe’s ambition to become a lawyer. Soon, Lowe’s story was published by numerous newspapers and magazines including The Day Book (Chicago, Illinois), February 26, 1914; Rock Island Argus (Illinois), February 27, 1914 (below); The Women Lawyers’ Journal, March 1914; Morning Press (Santa Barbara, California), March 3, 1914; Morning Union (Grass Valley and Nevada City, California), March 6, 1914; The Women Citizen, June 1914; and Case and Comment, October 1914. 

Rock Island Argus, (Illinois), February 27, 1914
China’s First Woman Lawyer
Berkeley, Cal., Feb. 27. The republic of China is soon to have its first woman lawyer. 

Her name is Miss Yarlock Lowe, and she is being trained in her profession at the University of California.

She is one of the few women studying Coke and Blackstone, is regularly enrolled in the school of jurisprudence, attends the lectures on law and digs daily in the big university Doe library.

Miss Lowe is not daunted by the fear that feminism is still too revolutionary for China. She believes that the ancient nation has need of active educated women as well as capable men for leaders, and that in law especially there is opportunity for service and a bright career in her ancestral land.

“I am a prelegal student now,” Miss Lowe said. “I intend to take the full law course and when it is completed I may have an office in San Francisco for a short time. But that will be only for experience.

“I shall return to China. There is, so far as I know, no woman lawyer in the whole nation. But women are becoming lawyers in America. The University of California has graduated a few. And I think a woman can serve equally well in China.

“That country, as the world knows, is awakening. It is for the lawyers of China to help in the remaking of the nation; in shaping new laws and enforcing them, and in protecting the interests of the Chinese people while making China a nation of influence in the world.”

Occidental in Habits.

Miss Lowe lives in Benvenue avenue, Oakland, just across the city line from Berkeley. She is thoroughly occidental in her dress and speech. But she has not acquired occidental frivolity.

“I have not even joined campus societies such as the Prelegal society, to which I might belong,” she said. “I fear that such things would interfere with my studies. If one does society or has too many outside activities it is easy to be flunked out of college; and I wish to end my work, so I can begin my profession.”
Lowe gained further attention in Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, March 25, 1915. 
China’s Perfect Girl: Miss Yarlock Lowe, a Chinese student at the University of California, enjoys the distinction of being the only physically perfect girl among 500 female students. She underwent a careful examination and was declared to be perfect not only in health, but to be the most symmetrical of the entire class. The examining physicians were amazed at this, since, they say, a Chinese woman who even approached physical perfection has never before been recorded. Miss Lowe is registered at the College of Jurisprudence, and will eventually return to China to practice law.

(An excerpt of the text was used in Myth America: Picturing Women, 1865–1945. The photographs on the page are not of Lowe.] 

Lowe graduated from the University of California in 1916. 

Blue & Gold 1916

The San Francisco Call, June 28, 1916, said Lowe was the maid of honor at the wedding of Rose Soo Hoo and Joseph Shoong. 

Lowe continued her work with the Chinese Students’ Alliance in California. 

According to the 1920 census, Lowe lived with her parents and younger sister, Salaine, in Berkeley at 2118 Durant Avenue. The census also said, apparently in error, Lowe was born in China and immigrated with her parents in 1900. 

Lowe furthered her law school education at the University of Chicago, in 1921, and University of Michigan, in 1922. 

The 1923 Oakland, California city directory listed Lowe at 2211 Stuart in Berkeley. Her occupation was importer. Her father had passed away in 1922 and she operated his company for a period of time. 

In 1923 Lowe copyrighted several designs composed of Chinese characters. 

The 1935 Oakland city directory listed Lowe at 2211 Stuart, in Berkeley, and her occupation was teacher. Lowe’s Chinese classes were covered in the Tribune, August 9, 1935. She was teaching employees of Pan-American Airways for their service to China. She had a hundred students “at Oakland Technical High School and art Lincoln School, under the State Department of Education and the Emergency Education Program.” Lowe said “It is is simple to learn. By making it pictorial, and living, it is so easy most of my pupils are able to speak Chinese easily in six months.”

Lowe’s address was the same in directories from 1944 through 1957. 

Lowe passed away on August 27, 1967. She was laid to rest at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park. 


Josephine Grace Chan was born in 1894 in California according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. She was one of thirteen Chinese females, ages six to 20, who resided at the Chinese Mission School on Washington Street in San Francisco, California. The Napa Weekly Journal (California), January 3, 1913, wrote about Chan early life. 
... When Josephine was a mere baby, her father pawned her and sold her three-year-old sister because his wife was too ill to work and support the family. When the poor mother became again able to work, she tried to get her baby back, but the wicked woman who had the child refused to give her up. The Oriental Home knew of the matter and appealed to the courts for possession of the little girl, then about three years old. A humane Judge gave her to them, and she has been in the home for sixteen years. ...
The Press Democrat (California), June 9, 1905, said Chan was one of three Chinese girls who participated in the annual convention of the Napa District of the Epworth League. 

The San Francisco Call, December 22, 1905, reported the death of Chan’s friend at the Chinese Methodist Home. 

The Call, May 26, 1909, said the Chinese women of the Chinese methodist Church gave a musical performance to raise money to repair the church that was damaged by a fire. Chan sang “Silver Threads Among the Gold”. According to the Call, August 8, 1910, Chan played piano solos at the annual conference of the Chinese Students’ Alliance of the Western States. Also at the conference was Yarlock Lowe who was on the decoration committee. The San Francisco Chronicle, May 12, 1912, said Chan had a piano solo at the annual conference of the Chinese Students’ Alliance.

In the 1910 census, Chan and over thirty Chinese females, ages two to twenty-eight, resided at the Home for Chinese Women and Girls, 1918 University Avenue in Berkeley, California. 



Chan was pictured in the Berkeley High School yearbook, Olla Podrida, of June 1911 and June 1912. The 1912 yearbook said Chan attended Mills Seminary in 1909 and 1910, and received a Berkeley High School Commercial Certificate in 1911. 

The Napa Weekly Journal said 
Last August [1912] she entered the Medical school of the State University, where she is preparing to be a medical missionary. Besides being a good student, Josephine is also skilled in domestic arts. She can scrub, wash, iron and bake, and she is at present supporting herself by working in a family in Berkeley. She herself made the dress she wore, and she delighted the society by her playing on the piano. A fine example of “Up from Slavery.” 

Beginning in November 1914, the above photograph appeared in newspapers from coast to coast. The amount of text, accompanying the photograph, varied to due space limitations. The complete version may have appeared in the New York Call, November 18, 1914, and The Argus (Albany, New York), December 17, 1914.
Berkeley, Cal., Nov. 16.—To pave the way for advanced medical work In the interior of China, is the ambition of Josephine Grace Chan, a student in the premedical department of the University of California. She will impart the latest scientific methods in surgery and medicine that the Western world has to offer, and will spare no effort in carrying out her medical knowledge in the Free Clinics which she will establish in the Orient.

The first work of Miss Chan will be to perfect the sewer system of China by means of an educational campaign. Imperfect sewerage has been the cause of much sickness in China and before building her clinics, she will arouse public sentiment for a modern sewer system.

“There is no sanitation, whatever, in the interior of China,” said Miss Chan. “In the poorer districts of China the sanitary conditions are appalling and I mean to improve them.

”The homes of the poor in China are a disgrace to the race, and that, too, must be remedied by medical women.

“The Chinese do not believe in medicine, nor do they believe in disease. The only disease which can befall them is called ‘evil’ and this is cured by puncturing the body with holes to eject the evil spirit and by such means all wounds are healed.”

Miss Chan will be the first Chinese woman medical graduate. She has already attained honors in medicine and is a member of the Chinese Medical Society of America.
What became of Chan after 1915 is not known. 


No comments:

Post a Comment