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ONLINE—UNLADYLIKE2020: Tye Leung Schulze—First Chinese American Woman Federal Government Employee

May 12, 2020May 13, 2020


Tye Leung Schulze, first Chinese American woman federal government employee. Original artwork by Amelie Chabannes.

Releasing weekly on the American Masters and UNLADYLIKE2020 websites starting in March, Unladylike2020 is a multimedia series consisting of a one-hour special for broadcast and 26 digital short films featuring courageous, little-known and diverse female trailblazers from the turn of the 20th century. These women achieved many firsts, including earning an international pilot’s license, becoming a bank president, founding a hospital, fighting for the desegregation of public spaces, exploring the Arctic, opening a film studio, and singing opera at Carnegie Hall. Presenting history in a bold new way, American Masters — Unladylike2020, produced and directed by Charlotte Mangin, brings these incredible stories back to life through original artwork and animation, rare historical archival footage, and interviews with descendants, historians and accomplished modern women who reflect upon the influence of these pioneers.

On May 13, watch the story of Tye Leung Schulze (1887–1972), the youngest daughter of low-income immigrants from China, escaped from domestic servitude at age nine and an arranged marriage at age 12. She began her career translating for victims of human trafficking in San Francisco’s Chinatown working for Donldina Cameron’s Presbyterian Mission Home. In 1910, she became the first Chinese American woman to work for the federal government, as assistant matron and an interpreter at the Angel Island Immigration Station, a detention center designed to control the flow of Asian immigrants into the US under the Chinese Exclusion Act. While there, she fell in love with a white immigration inspector, Charles Schulze, and married him against both their parents’ wishes and California’s anti-miscegenation laws. In 1912, one year after California granted women the right to vote, Leung became the first Chinese American woman to vote in a US election. Interviewees: Julia Flynn Siler, author of The White Devil’s Daughters: The Women Who Fought Slavery; Ted Schulze, grandson of Tye Leung Schulze; Judge Toko Serita, New York State Acting Supreme Court Justice who presides over the Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court and the Queens County Criminal Court.

A vast interactive website features the stories of over 100 diverse and extraordinary women from the turn of the 20th century who broke barriers and achieved tremendous professional heights.

Read on for more about this project, and PBS’ summer-long celebration of female trailblazers here.

UNLADYLIKE 2020 is supported by California Humanities through a California Documentary Project grant.