Tag Archives: Columbia University

Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee (1896-1966) 2020 National Women’s History Alliance Honoree

Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee is a deceased honoree of the National Women’s History Alliance for her work on women’s suffrage. This March we are celebrating Women’s History Month and the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Although Dr. Lee was unable to vote because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, she worked to see the passing of women’s suffrage in New York State.
This blog entry is to honor Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee. She does not have a file at the National Archives at Seattle. Her file 12,943, box 68 is at National Archives at New York City. She does appear on a passenger list when she arrived in Seattle on 30 September 1937.
The following entry and sketch are from National Women’s History Alliance
Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee – 1896-1966

Mabel Ping-Hua Lee
Mabel Ping-Hua Lee

Suffragist, member of the Women’s Political Equality League [photo]
Mabel Ping-Hua Lee was born in 1896 in Guangzhou, China. The daughter of a Baptist minister, Lee emigrated to the United States and attended Barnard College and Columbia University. Upon earning her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1921, she became the first Chinese American woman to obtain that degree in economics. Her dissertation, The Economic History of China, was published in 1921.
Lee had a long history of suffrage activism and believed achieving votes for women was an important step for both American and Chinese women. At the age of 16 she participated in the 1912 suffrage parade in New York where she helped lead this parade while on horseback. Lee was a member of the Women’s Political Equality League and in 1915 gave an important speech titled “China’s Submerged Half” which was covered by the New York Times. In this speech she said:
“The welfare of China and possibly its very existence as an independent nation depends on rendering tardy justice to its womankind. For no nation can ever make real and lasting progress in civilization unless its women are following close to its men if not actually abreast with them.”
Lee’s work on behalf of suffrage successfully led to the 1917 passage of women’s suffrage in the state of New York. However due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, Lee herself was not allowed to vote that year and it is unknown whether she ever voted. After the death of her father, Lee served as head of the First Chinese Baptist Church located in Chinatown in New York City starting in 1924. She then went on to create a Chinese Christian Center, which provided kindergarten and English classes as well as a health clinic.
Dr. Mabel Lee is now being recognized for her pioneering work in advocating for both women’s rights and rights for Asian Americans. Today the Mabel Lee Memorial Post office located at 6 Doyers Street in New York City is named in her honor.