Michigan Chinese Women Association (MCWA), a non-profit charitable organization, was formally announced by a group of first generation Chinese-American women at Woodhaven’s Best Western Hotel, owned by the Huang family including member Snow Liao, on November 17, 1990. Though this small group of women came from an array of backgrounds, they did share a common story: all had immigrated to the United States and all felt a need to redefine their role in American society. Too often, while living in the United States, first generation Chinese-Americans would be lumped together with other Asians. How often were they mistakenly identified as Japanese? There were Chinese-American organizations centered around educational, civil rights, and business forums, but these women felt a need to have a different type of organization. They knew that first generation Chinese-American women have been viewed as contributors to society through raising their families and being productive in the workforce as individuals, but never recognized as a group in mainstream society. They were proud and wanted to retain their heritage and expose future generations to the Chinese culture. They also believed that Chinese-American women needed to be viewed as leaders and contributors in mainstream society, in particular with devotion to community service. By unifying as an organization, the women would be accurately identified as Chinese-Americans contributing and performing stewardship in the community, all the while growing their own identity and having fun too.
During the summer of 1990, Esther Wu and Janet Li brought together interested friends to form the Michigan Chinese Women Association. The original members were Esther Wu, Janet Li, Linda Gee, Jennifer Ling, Julia Ho, Shiao-Ling Chu, Li-Min Guo, Bonnie Chang, Cheng-Yu Chen, Hsiu-Hui Pan, and Hui-Ming Fang. The goal would be to have a core group of 15 board members, each serving 3-year terms. Within the board, there would be an elected president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer serving one-year terms. It was then the mission of the organization was defined as above. Members themselves funded donations, time and effort, and all the expenses incurred by the organization. The hope was that eventually the organization would attract not only first generation Chinese-American women, but to any Chinese-American women of any generation.
One way to combine the missions was to hold Chinese activities, such as fashion shows or literary seminars, and take the modest admission fees and donate the proceeds to those in need. The introductory event was the very successful “Michigan Night” on November 17, 1990, which featured twenty-three amateur singers. More than 200 people attended the event, which asked for a minimum donation of $5 at the door. Board members absorbed the event expenses. In all, $2800 in donations was collected.
Under Esther Wu’s guidance the first year, members and teenagers went to Dearborn Roney Manor Residents to entertain senior residents with Chinese food and dancing on February 2, 1991. On May 19th, MCWA held a large Mother’s Day celebration, where over 300 people attended. Some charitable donations included $300 that was donated to an Asian American student organization at University of Michigan and to a family of a child who was to receive open-heart surgery at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at University of Michigan.
Afterwards, Jennifer Ling was at the helm of the organization, leading for 2 terms as president. She aptly reached all of the organization’s goals. She was able to bring in Chieng-Wan, the renowned author, who gave an inspiring talk on life and Chinese literature. She brought in Tai-Feng Shia, the famous singer and the entertainer Zhiu Shen to perform at the 1992 and 1994 annual banquets. Charitable donations and food were given to Detroit, Pontiac and Ann Arbors homeless shelters. MCWA members visited residents at East Side Nursing Home in Detroit. “Pine Tree Night” had members provide transportation, food and entertainment to area Chinese seniors. Annual large fundraising fashion shows attracted more than 300 attendees each time.
Bonnie Cheng served as president during 1993. She brought the renowned literary author Chi-Gong, who attracted some audience from afar to attend. She was even an aerobics performer at the annual banquet.
The success of the first 5 years of MCWA was not just on the shoulders of the presidents, but the many devoted board members and friends. Some deserve special mentioning. Janny Lu designed and donated flyers and programs. In later years, she becomes an advisor and long-term donor of MCWA. Carol Chen served 3 terms as treasurer. Linda Gee was the all-around entertainer, often as emcee and singer. Shiao-Ling Chu served 2 terms as secretary. Other special contributors were Janet Li, Shin-Chun Wu, Chau-Hei Lin, Hsiu-Chueh Ho, Nancy Chiu, Christine Wong, Hsiu-Feng Lin, Mei-Chih You, Fu-Mei Chang, Teresa Shen, Dr. John Ling, Dr. Daniel Li, Albert Wu, Sterling Gee, Kong-Hsung Chien, David Chang, Min-Hong Hsu, Chan-Te Chen, John Shen, and Mao-Yao Huang.
Executive board members 1990 – 1994
1990-1991 President Esther Wu, Vice- president Linda Gee, Secretary Li-Min Guo, Treasurer Carol Chien.
1991-1992 President Jennifer Ling, Vice-president Bonnie Chang, Secretary Shiao-Ling Chu. Treasurer Carol Chien.
1992-1993 President Bonnie Chang, Vice-president Jennifer Ling, Secretary Shiao-Ling Chu.
1993-1994 President Jennifer Ling, Vice-president Amy Lee, Secretary Shang-Shang Wang, Treasurer Hsiu-Chueh Ho
Nov. 1994 MCWA merged with Taiwanese Girls’ High Schools Alumni Association,
President Caroline Wu, Vice-president Chau-Hei Lin