Tung Pok Chin and Wing Fong Chin Papers
Language of Materials
Mak Ting Fong (married name, Wing Fong Chin, b. 1928) first arrived in the United States in 1950 with her husband, Tung Pok Chin. In 1955, she began working in Chinatown as a seamstress and, beginning in 1957, became involved with the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) efforts to organize garment workers. She was for many years an officer of ILGWU Local 23-25. She remained active with the union until her retirement in 1997. The collection includes a selection of her correspondence and speeches, a typescript memoir by her daughter and clippings relating to her union work. Tung Pok Chin (1916-1988) came to the United States in 1934 as a "paper son," that is, he purchased papers designating him the son of an American native in order to evade the immigration restrictions of the time. In the U.S. he worked in and later owned laundry businesses in Boston, Rhode Island and New York City. In his spare time, he studied English, read Chinese literature, and wrote prose and poetry. In 2000 his memoir, Paper Son: One Man's Story, which he co-wrote with his daughter, Winifred C. Chin, was published by Temple University Press. The collection includes a selection of his poetry, military papers, correspondence, material relating to his memoirs, and three books with his annotations.
Tung Pok Chin (1915-1988) was born in Tai-shan County in Guangdong, China and immigrated to the U.S. in 1934 as a "paper son" to circumvent the Chinese Exclusion Acts. He worked in laundries during brief periods of residence in Boston and Rhode Island, and later established his own laundry business in Brooklyn, New York, with the assistance of the Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance (CHLA). In his spare time, he studied English, read Chinese literature, and wrote prose and poetry. In 1937, he contacted Dr. Ralph E. Pickett, then Associate Dean of New York University's School of Education, about admission to NYU. Although he was not eligible for admission, Dr. Pickett strongly supported his efforts at self-education, and, over the years, sent him many books and references to further his literary and other interests. As their correspondence attests, the two men shared a friendship and correspondence that would last a lifetime.
On the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Tung Pok Chin enlisted in the U. S. Navy. He was the first Chinese person in New York City to enlist, and photos of his swearing-in ceremony were published in major newspapers in the northeast U.S. to encourage minority enlistment. After his honorable discharge from the Navy, he began to write columns and poems for the China Daily News under the pen name Lai Bing Chan. The paper was sympathetic to the Chinese revolution, and its then editor, T'ang Ming Chao, was an avowed Communist who returned to the mainland soon after the Communist victory. In the 1950s, amidst FBI accusations that he was writing for and subscribing to a pro-Communist newspaper, and fearing that his irregular immigration status might render him vulnerable, Tung Pok Chin burned more than 200 of his own poems and may have destroyed some of his other papers as well.
In 1949, he had returned briefly to China where he met and married Mak Ting Fong; in 1950 he re-entered the United States with his new bride. At first she assisted her husband at his laundry in Brooklyn. The Chins soon became active in the True Light Lutheran Church in Chinatown, and eventually moved to Manhattan. The couple had two children, Wilson and Winifred.
Upon retirement in 1978, Tung Pok Chin began work on his memoir, eventually completed with assistance from his daughter, Winifred C. Chin. The result was Paper Son, One Man's Story, published by Temple University Press in 2000. After retirement he volunteered to teach English at a senior center in Chinatown, continued his association with the Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance, studied to perfect his English, and enjoyed the literary reputation his published poetry brought him. He died of cardiac arrest in New York City in 1988.
Mak Ting Fong (married name, Wing Fong Chin, b. 1928) first arrived in the United States in 1950 with her husband, Tung Pok Chin. In 1955, when their first child, Wilson, was old enough to attend school, Mrs. Chin started working as a seamstress in Chinatown. Her connection with the International Ladies' Garment Worker' Union (ILGWU) began when she interpreted messages for union organizers from English to Chinese at the shops where she worked. Wing Fong Chin understood English, since her father had been an English teacher in Hong Kong, and she used her language ability to aid the effort to organize Chinatown garment workers. She joined Local 23-25 of the ILGWU in 1957 and became increasingly active in the Local's affairs, serving as vice-president and, from 1983, Executive Board chairperson. She was influential in the 1982 Chinatown garment workers' strike, involving some 20,000 workers, and testified in September 1985 before the Congressional Textile Caucus and the Senate Subcommittee on International Trade on the catastrophic impact of foreign imports on U.S. jobs. She concluded, "[I]f you ignore us, the message you will send is that there is no room in the United States for people like myself." Wing Fong Chin became well known in the Chinese-American community as an advocate for Asian American women and for workers' rights.
Folders are arranged alphabetically
Organized into three series:
Series I. Subject Files, 1934-2002
Series II. Oversize Posters, Books and Ephemera, 1875-1988
Series III. Photographs, 1936-2002
Scope and Contents
Tung Pok Chin and Wing Fong Chin Papers and Photographs include correspondence, official documents, manuscripts, books, ephemera, and photographs relating to Tung Pok Chin's writing and life as an immigrant and Wing Fong Chin's union activism in 20th century New York City. The collection includes a selection of Tung Pok Chin's poetry, military papers, correspondence, material relating to his memior Paper Son: One Man's Story, three books with his annotations, and photographs of himself and friends. There is also a selection of Wing Fong Chin's correspondence and speeches, a typescript memoir by her daughter and clippings and photographs relating to her union work. Also included in the collection is Winifred C. Chin's correspondence and writings which relate to her parents.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by the Tung Pok and Wing Fong Chin were transferred to New York University in 2003 by Winefred C. Chin. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Identification of item, date; Tung Pok Chin and Wing Fong Chin Papers; TAM 235; box number; folder number or item identifier; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Materials donated by Winifred C. Chin in 2003 and 2008; additional materials were found in the repository in 2014. The accession numbers associated with these gifts are 2003.003, 2003.006, NPA.2008.033, and 2014.061. Chin donated an accretion of materials in November 2019; the accession number associated with this gift is 2021.022.
With the assistance of the Asian/Pacific/American Institute of New York University, Winifred C. Chin, daughter of Tung Pok Chin and Wing Fong Chin, donated the collection to the Tamiment Library in January 2003 and in September 2008. Materials found in the repository were added to the collection in 2014.
Born-Digital Access Policies and Procedures
An access terminal for born-digital materials in the collection is available by appointment for reading room viewing and listening only. Researchers may view an item's original container and/or carrier, but the physical carriers themselves are not available for use because of preservation concerns.
A loose envelope separated from its correspondence has been retained in the collection as it demonstrates Tung Pok Chin's relationship to NYU's School of Education and the school's Dean, Ralph E. Pickett.
Existence and Location of Copies
Digital reproductions of some photographs in the collection can be found in The Sweatshops in the Twenty-first Century on the Labor Arts website.
About this Guide
Photographs were separated from this collection during initial processing and were established as a separate collection, the Tung Pok Chin and Wing Fong Chin Photographs (PHOTOS 257). In 2013, the photograph collection was reincorporated into the Tung Pok Chin and Wing Fong Chin Papers and Photographs (TAM 235). In April 2014, correspondence to Winifred Chin regarding Tung Pok Chin was found in the repository and added to the collection. In March 2021, an accretion of photographs, objects, and documents was integrated into the collection's existing series structure in Series I. and III. In June 2021, the collection's subject headings were edited to replace harmful topical access points about immigration status. New York University Libraries follow professional standards and best practices when imaging, ingesting, and processing born-digital material in order to maintain the integrity and authenticity of the content.
Revisions to this Guide
Edition of this Guide
Series I: Subject Files, 1934-2002, inclusive
Language of Materials
Scope and Content Note
Series I: Subject Files, includes certificates of Tung Pok Chin and Wing Fong Chin, correspondence between Tung Pok Chin and Dean Ralph E. Pickett of NYU, original newspaper clippings of Tung Pok Chin's poems in China Daily News, other poetry of Tung Pok Chin, and commentary and essays by Winifred C. Chin. It also contains material documenting the work of Wing Fong Chin in ILGWU, Local 23-25.
Certificate of Dual Nationality (United States of America and China) of Tung Pok Chin, 1949, inclusive
Certificate of Identity of Tung Pok Chin, 1934, inclusive
Certificate of Marriage of Tung Pok Chin and Wing Fong Chin, 1949, inclusive
Certificates of Wing Fong Chin, 1972-1995, inclusive
Chin, Winifred C: Commentaries on the Correspondence and Friendship between TPC and Dr. Ralph Pickett, circa 2001, inclusive
Chin, Winifred C: Correspondence Regarding Tung Pok Chin, Sep 1988, inclusive
Chin, Winifred C: Writings (Memoir of Wing Fong Chin and "Terms of Address," typescripts), undated, inclusive
Correspondence: letter from Wing Fong Chin to Mario Cuomo, 1986, inclusive
Correspondence: to Tun Pok Chin from Dean Daniel E. Griffiths, Jan 24, 1978
Correspondence: to Tung Pok Chin from Dean Ralph E. Pickett, 1944-1974, inclusive
Correspondence: to Wing Fong Chin, 1985-1989, inclusive
Correspondence: To Winifred C. Chin from Elizabeth Tremulis (daughter of Dean Ralph E. Pickett), 1988-2003, inclusive
Correspondence: To Winifred C. Chin from Ralph E. Pickett, Jr., 1999 , 2001, inclusive
Honorable Discharge papers from the United States Navy (Tung Pok Chin), 1945-1948, inclusive
ILGWU: Justice Report on Wing Fong Chin's Testimony on Foreign Imports (with typescript of WFC testimony), October 1985
ILGWU, Local 23-25: Newsletter articles, Mar, 1983 , Nov 1985 , 2003, inclusive
ILGWU: Newspaper Photo and Article re: Wing Fong Chin, 1986 , 1994 , 2003, inclusive
Mazur, Jay (President, UNITE): Articles, 2000-2001, inclusive
Navy ID Card and Tag, early 1940s, inclusive
Navy ID Tag of Tung Pok Chin, 1941-1945, inclusive
NYU School of Education, 1945
Paper Son Manuscript, circa 2000
Poems of Tung Pok Chin: Clippings from China Daily News, etc., 1963-1980, inclusive
Poems of Tung Pok Chin (mss., with translations), 1962-1986, inclusive
Poems of Tung Pok Chin: With Introduction and Translations by Winifred C. Chin, for the Memoir, Paper Son, 1948-2003, inclusive
Registry of Births Entry for Wing Fong Chin, May 11, 1953
Shareholder's Certificates: Lin Hop Co., Inc. and Wah Kue Wet Wash Co,. Inc., Apr 2, 1947 , Dec 2001
Testimony of Wing Fong Chin before Various New York City Government Bodies, undated , 1982, inclusive
Series II: Oversize Posters, Books and Ephemera, 1875-1988, inclusive
Language of Materials
Scope and Content Note
Series II: Oversize Posters, Books and Ephemera includes two oversize posters for a rally against foreign imports in the garment industry as well as a Wing Fong Chin's certificate of graduation from Tak Ching Girls' School in Hong Kong. Three books presented to Tung Pok Chin by Dean Ralph E. Pickett with annotations by Tung Pok Chin are also included, as are ephemera from the ILGWU, Local 23-25. The Hong Kong Driving License of Wing Fong Chin is also included in this series. Note: The bulk of Tung Pok Chin's personal library was donated to the Fales Library at NYU by Winifred C. Chin in 1988.
Certificate of Graduation from Tak Ching Girls' School (Elementary School), Hong Kong for Wing Fong Chin, Jul 16, 1947, inclusive
Posters for a Mass Rally to "Defend the Garment Industry: Protect Garment Workers' Rights and Benefits", Aug 28, 1988, inclusive
Ephemera: Hong Kong Driving License (Wing Fong Chin), 1953, inclusive
Ephemera: ILGWU Local 23-25 Keychain, undated
Ephemera: ILGWU Local 23-25 Pen, undated
Ephemera: ILGWU Local 23-25 Pencil, undated
Ephemera: ILGWU Local 23-25 Pins, undated
An Index to English: A Handbook of Current Usage and Styleby Porter G. Perrin, with handwritten annotations by Tung Pok Chin, 1939, inclusive
The Forms of Poetry: A Pocket Dictionary of Verse, by Louis Untermeyer, with handwritten annotations by Tung Pok Chin, 1926, inclusive
The Oldest and the Newest Empire: China and the United States, by William Speer, with handwritten annotations by Tung Pok Chin, 1875, inclusive
Sewing Woman, produced and directed by Arthur Dong (VHS), undated
Series III: Photographs, 1936-2002, inclusive
Scope and Content Note
Series III: Photographs includes photographs of Wing Fong Chin from the 1970s through the early 2000s. Many of these photographs are from her activities with the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union Local 23-25, including the 1982 strike. Also included in this series are photographs of Tung Pok Chin from the 1940s through the 1970s and his friends from his World War II service in the Navy and Ralph E. Pickett. Some photographs in the "Chin, Tung Pok," "Chin, Wing Fong," and "Pickett, Ralph E." folders include captions from a 2003 exhibit.