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daughter of han paper done

Kyle O'Brien
DR. Jeff Hornibrook
In this paper I will show that in both A Daughter of Han and The Conditions of the Working
Class in England women are reasonable for working, work breaks up the family unit, and in both
families struggle to make ends meet.
In A Daughter of Han, women are responsible for working. Women spend many hours of
their day working outside of the home. In the case of Mantez, we see that she is forced to work
because her husband is a severe opium addict. Traditionally in their society, her family would
help pay for some basic things such as food or clothes for the first child; but her parents had
moved away shortly after she was married off. With her family gone she was left only with her
husband; unfortunately for her, her husband like many others at the time in China had a crippling
opium addiction. The time he was home he spent stealing every last penny he could to buy more
opium. With her husband more or less gone she had to work to try and feed her family. This
became a reality for many women in China at the time as the opium wars heated up more and
more people became addicted as the westerners flooded the market with opium. Having to work
breaks up the family unit for many families during this time. We see this in A Daughter of Han
more than once. One of the times we see this in A Daughter of Han when Mantez doesn’t feel
comfortable leaving her daughter home alone but she must because she has to go to work1. We
also see the family unit broken up when Tai-Tai's husband has to leave for long periods of time
for his job as a fisherman. This breaks up their family taking the father figure away for weeks or
months at a time and only bring him back for a few days at a time. In the case of Tai-Tai we
again see women being forced to work because while her husband had a job the text shows that
most fishermen ended up spending all their money on alcohol and smoking leaving little or
nothing for the family. With the husband spending all the money she must work to feed her
In The Conditions of the Working Class in England we see women being forced to work
because factories preferred to heir women; as a result of this women ended up representing a
majority of the workforce about 70% of the workforce. We see this in the story of Jack a
working man who moved to St. Helens in search of work only to find that while work for women
and children was plentiful men had a significantly harder time finding work2. These hiring
practices were most likely the result of the significantly lower wages that could be paid to
women and children. Because of the majority of the workforce being women working at a lower
rate than the men many families had trouble making ends meet. We see this when Engels
mentions that the wages of women and children would have fallen more had they not been so
low, to begin with. This lead to a breakup of the family unit which had detrimental societal
impacts. This breakup of the family unit took the mother away from the home for 12 hours a day
Ida Pruitt, A Daughter of Han: The Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman (Stanford: Stanford University
Press,1967), 157.
Frederick Engles: The Conditions of the Working Class in England (Academy Chicago, 1969), 172.
leaving the children to fend for themselves often times. In districts where this type of family
dynamic was common child mortality rose dramatically. In industrial districts, there were 225
accidental deaths involving children while in non-industrial districts there were only 146 such
deaths in the same span of time3. Aside from this also takes the parents out of the home during
dining times. However, this doesn’t always completely destroy the family dynamic as families
where the father is unable to find work they are left home to assume the traditional matronly
duties, in these families they were better able to look after their children as both parents aren't out
of the house 12 plus hours a day.
These two sources have many similarities. People in these two sources though separated by
thousands of miles lived somewhat similar lives. In both one of the key points is how the family
dynamic is affected by the changing and globalizing workforce. We see how the opium wars
started by the globalization of trade brings opium to the Chinese shores creating dramatic
changes in the Chinese workforce and home structures.
In A Daughter of Han, the effect opium has on the population stands out, as we see families
torn apart by the drug. Surprisingly I feel that the men and women of this time would fit into the
21st-century world better then one might expect. This would be due to men and women being
used to people working in nontraditional gender roles as many of them worked in nontraditional
gender roles.
Frederick Engles: The Conditions of the Working Class in England (Academy Chicago, 1969), 172.