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A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Nov 29, 2010

Tribute to Samsui Women of Singapore

This blog to express as a tribute to the Samsui women of Singapore, the silent heroine who built Singapore over five decades. The immigrant construction workers from China, the synonymous red headgear workers (all female) with tough, resilient, hardworking and weather-beaten characters who are the vanishing workers 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 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 tired 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 1...

Step 2...

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 ".



Blogger chinatownboy said...

Great stuff & good job in compiling all the information and wonderful pictures.

November 29, 2010 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger dazzakoh said...

Excellent work!

November 29, 2010 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thank you for your kind words, Vic.

I enjoyed working on this blog as much as sharing it with my friends and everyone. Cheers!

November 29, 2010 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thank you for your kind encouragement and compliments, dazzakoh. Much appreciated.

November 29, 2010 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger Ivan Chew said...

I would really love to poll some people born in the 90s and later. On what they make of posts like this (nice one, btw). Cos I think by then, the Samsui Women story is not so well know and news about them are probably nonexistent on TV (at least in the 80s there was still a prog about them).

November 30, 2010 at 12:27 AM  
Blogger Tomyng said...

I am happy to share in your great job to compile this lost chapter in our history. I have an aunt, who was a Samsui woman. She baby-sit my siblings after her retirement from worksite. She spent her old age in the nunnery, as a buddhist nun. Their ruggedness, hardship, survival instinct, meagre living will certainly put all of us to shame. Keep up your hobby, write more..Tomy Ng

November 30, 2010 at 5:55 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thank you for sharing your sentiments and the Samsui Woman real life story of your aunt.

The tough and rugged quest for life as a Samsui woman and her spirit for survival and characteristic which people under these circumstances could emulate.

I am inspired by other fellow bloggers and your kind encouragement to keep us happy blogging. Cheers!

November 30, 2010 at 6:22 PM  
Blogger jill said...

Awesome post! Clicked here from the MOE facebook page. Keep blogging :))

December 3, 2010 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thank you for your kind encouragement and compliments, Interrrrro.


December 5, 2010 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It is important future generations know about these wonderful workers who helped transformed Singapore's landscape.

Thank you for compiling this.

April 6, 2011 at 4:14 AM  
Blogger Jed said...

Nicely Done,James. Enjoyed the Pics and the story behind the Samsui Women

April 16, 2013 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I was in tears as I read your "blog" James. I was so young when we lived in Sg. How easyt my life was compared to theirs. I can see them in my mind's eye, and am ashamed I paid them so little attention. They truly were the life-blood of Singapore in that era.
Thank you for sharingx

May 14, 2014 at 2:19 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Somehow felt very touched. Great blog.

September 3, 2014 at 3:31 PM  

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