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Monday, July 28, 2008

eastcoastlife, the Samsui Woman - WW

Samsui women's reputation for resilience and hard work, embodies the spirit that has gone into the making of modern Singapore.

We came from a rural and extremely poor region to the west of Guangzhou, where three rivers, or 'three waters' (Samsui in Cantonese), flowed into one. A catastrophic flood in 1915 washed away many homes and livelihoods, making life more wretched.

I came in my teens. Most came alone. In the 1930s, after months at sea in grim and perilous conditions, when I stepped onto the Singapore pier, the road ahead seemed daunting indeed.

We worked hard to save money to support relatives whom we might never see again. Most Samsui women stayed single and lived very simply. Leading frugal lives, sharing accommodation and eating simple food. Determined to save every cent we could, we walked to or from work, gathered wood for cooking from around building sites and mended our clothes ourselves.

As we went to and from work on building sites in Singapore, people recognised us from our broad red hats and blue-black samfoo.

Samsui women worked very hard, we had to labour for around nine hours a day. Many couldn't read or write. We are used to others looking down on us....., because we carry mud.

(adapted from an article in The Straits Times)

My tribute to these sisters, many had a sad life. When they grew old, many were plagued by illnesses and died lonely.

Entertaining enough!?

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