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Women’s Place

In response to:

The Other China from the October 22, 1992 issue

To the Editors:

Although I am normally a great admirer of Jonathan Spence’s writings about China, I was surprised that his otherwise-encyclopedic essay about Taiwan [NYR, October 22, 1992] ignored the role of women and the women’s movement in the Taiwanese people’s struggle toward democracy.

Spence referred to eight “men” who were convicted in the 1980 rigged political trials. Actually, two of the eight were women: Lü Hsiu-lien and Ch’en Chü.

True, most of the political leaders imprisoned around this time (in addition to the well-known eight, there were about 60 others) were male. However, in many cases their wives took up the struggle. They, and other women, ran for public offices which, however powerless, gave them a platform from which to shame the government into eliminating some of the more primitive features of the Kuomintang political system. At the same time, by their example they then advanced the position of women in society to an extent probably unmatched in any other East Asian country. James D. Seymour
Senior Research Scholar
East Asian Institute
Columbia University
New York City

Jonathan Spence replies:

I am glad to learn more of the women’s movements in Taiwan. Had the books that I was reviewing spent more time on the topic, I would have done so too. When someone did—as in the case of Professor Hill Gates—I paid close attention, and shared her views with New York Review readers. But to write eight “men” when two were women was my mistake. Not knowing the gender of the protagonists, I could more fruitfully have said “eight people.”

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