In 1952, Toy Len Goon, a modest widow and mother of eight, was selected as Maine Mother of the Year, and then for the national title, by the J.C. Penney Golden Rule Foundation. An immigrant from China, she came to the U.S. in 1921 as the wife of Dogan Goon, a WWI veteran and laundryman. After Dogan became disabled and unable to work, passing away in 1941, she and her children ran the laundry and household, located at 615 Forest Ave in Portland, ME. However, there is much of Toy Len Goon’s story that was not told by the media coverage celebrating her honor. As one of Toy Len Goon’s grandchildren, but also a cultural anthropologist, I place her story within a fuller context in the hopes of doing justice to her legacy as not only a mother, but a woman who broke out of a number of traditional roles, while also remaining filial to relatives back in China.
About the speaker: Andrea Louie is Professor of Anthropology and is founding director of the Asian Pacific American Studies Program at Michigan State University. She has conducted research exploring how ideas constructed around “Chineseness” as a racial and cultural identity have been reworked as transnational processes and bring Chinese from different parts of the world into contact with one another. She is author of Chineseness Across Borders: Re-negotiating Chinese Identities in China and the U.S. (Duke University Press, 2004) and How Chinese Are You? Adopted Chinese Youth and their Families Negotiate Identity and Culture (New York University Press, 2015). She has conducted research with her MSU colleagues on international Chinese students at MSU, funded by a Spencer Foundation Small Grant. With funding from a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, she is currently working on a book focusing on her maternal grandmother’s selection as U.S. Mother of the Year in 1952.