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Life History of A Chinese Working Woman

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  1. Introduction
  2. The early life of Lao T'ai
    1. Being called Little Tiger
    2. Moving into a new house
    3. Her marriage to a man fourteen years older than her
  3. The death of her parents and her life after
    1. Her difficult choice to become a beggar
    2. The loss of her daughter Chinya
  4. The marriage of Mantze
  5. Conclusion

Ida Pruitt is an anthropologist at Stanford University who spent two years interviewing Lao T'ai-t'ai about her life in China (1967-1938). Lao T'ai came to Ida Pruitt's room for breakfast every morning, and although Lao T'ai did not eat, she would smoke cigarettes for hours while talking to Pruitt about her life. Unfortunately, when Pruitt left and the Japanese had invaded in 1938, Pruitt never heard what had become of Lao T'ai.
Lao T'ai recounts many stories of other people, neighbors, relatives, or urban myths, which illustrated Chinese customs and beliefs. I have not included these stories in this summary due to space and the minimal effect they had on explaining Lao T'ai's life.

[...] This caused tension in the house and the cousin had to leave (Pruitt 1945: 41). Lao T'ai was now the woman of the house and had to stop playing and start being a wife (Pruitt 1945: 41). Lao T'ai's father-in-law also lived in the house (Pruitt 1945: 40). He made baskets to sell, but only made enough money to support himself (Pruitt 1945: 40). Her husband was an opium addict and did not work or make enough money to feed himself or Lao T'ai (Pruitt 1945: 41). [...]


[...] This way of life was hard, however, and soon Lao T'ai decided to move to Chefoo to work at the house of one of her previous employers (Pruitt 1945: 194). In 1911 Lao T'ai found a job for her daughter as well as herself, in Chefoo, at the home of a civil worker (Pruitt 1945: 195). They could both bring their children with them, and they shared a rented home (Pruitt 1945: 195). Soon after starting work, however, Mantze found a man that she liked and she took him into their home (Pruitt 1945: 203). [...]

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