Tribute to Samsui Women of Singapore
The blog is created with acknowledgement of thanks to the contributors at National Archive of Singapore (NAS), YouTube and other "memory-aid" resources of the Internet fraternity to share with our bloggers.
Samsui women came to Singapore in large numbers. As many as 200,000 are thought to have arrived between 1934 and 1938 alone. From the Sanshui District (三水區) of Guangdong, they took a vow to never marry before leaving China, and wore large red headdreses as a symbol and reminder of their vow. Most found menial employment in construction or as domestic servants and were known and respected for refusing to work as prostitutes or opium peddlers.
Many of them had taken root in Singapore as their homeland.
The modern day immigrants to Singapore and other neighbouring countries are no longer of the Samsui women breed of the past generations. However, immigrant workers have contributed to the development of Singapore, regardless of whatever roles...talented or skilled, formally educated or informally educated within the acceptable immigration requirements.
The Samsui women and other foreign immigrant workers, who travelled and contribute to their host countries in search of adventure in a place at different times for a different journey and life experiences, have changed their profiles over the several decades. Singapore is a global city today, very different from the days of the Samsui women who left their country home over five decades ago.
Mr Anthony Chen who graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, produced the NDP filmlet in 2007 about Samsui women on YouTube .
Who are the Samsui women?
The brief description of the Samsui women at Wikipedia .
Where have all the Samsui women gone?
Almost all the Samsui women who left China in boatloads to Singapore in the 1950s or earlier, have retired or passed on. As the traditional sources of manpower supply in the construction industry, these Samsui women ceased to seek employment and were replaced by other younger alternative foreign immigrants or overtaken by advanced technology and mechanisation, demand of other earning of livelihood elsewhere and history of events.
Start of the day with a simple meal cooked food at the community kitchen at home.
Off the Samsui women daily in the early morning with their red headgear, symbol of the construction brigade in the days yonder.
Work, work and work...
These Samsui women at construction sites in the Toa Payoh housing estates. Toa Payoh was still built with toil and sweat of the Samsui women in the early 1970s.
Meal time...food for energy
Meal taken anywhere to save time. It doesn't matter where...
A drink, a brief nap and loosen the sandals to relax the tied feet...
Small pieces of firewood (foc) for the kitchen stoves...
These Samsui women with smile of satisfaction for cleaning job completed at the Empress Place building.
Waiting by the roadside for the pickup to arrive...
At the evening of the day...returning home for rest and to sleep till the next day.
Getting ready for the National Day Parade "Samsui Women" march-past contingent as an honour and tribute...
Dr Lien Ying Chow, Chairman of the Overseas Union Bank Ltd, hosted the Lunar New Year luncheon to samsui women at Mandarin Hotel on January 29, 1996. "Fatt ah, fatt ah...everyone to lou hei". Cheers!
Demo of the Samsui woman's red headgear in 3 easy steps...
Step 3...Job done! Cheers!
Thank you very much. "Kong Hei Fatt Choy"...
These modern art statues of Samsui Women are located at the Urban Renewal Authority Building at Maxwell Road, Singapore.
The plaque placed beside the statues reads:
"From the Samsui Province we emigrate young and frugal,
To the Lion City in Nanyang, we labour and struggle.
To seek employment and fortune for our families
We toil and sweat and witness the building
Of Singapore, our pride and future".
The figures, carved from solid dusty-pink granite with rough textured finishing, reflects the hardship and the perseverance of these tough women during the 1950s and 1960s.
Professor Liu Jilin, June 1999
Uncle Dick Yip posted this to my Facebook profile page:
Some of the best workers in S'pore were these Samsui women. My late father chose some of them to work for him. I've been and seen them at their "samsui" work...very hard, even dangerous on sloping roof tops without any safety ropes ! They were always punctual for work, worked long hours and never GRUMBLED, ate simply under the hottest sun and heat. Truly...these Samsui women are legends in their days. I knew some of them thro my father, all living in "ngau chieh soi ".Spotted. The book "Samsui Girl" by Stephanie Ho Ling Ling. Stephanie is a public historian with extensive experience in education and the heritage industry. A former history teacher and museum educator, Stephanie has a PhD (Public History) from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).