320. Chinese Canadian Women, 1923-1967 at Black Creek Pioneer Village.


Exhibit about Photojournalist Ruth Lor Malloy.

Black Creek Pioneer Village is expanding its definition of “pioneer.” Last evening, it opened a new exhibit: “They gave up themselves for the next generation”: The Working Lives of Chinese Canadian Women, 1923-1967.

While Chinese-Canadian women didn’t usually plant apple trees or raise their own chickens, they did work in laundries and restaurants and made sure their kids got a Canadian education.

My own maternal grandmother started life as an indentured servant in China. She came with her husband to North Bay, Ontario in the early 1900s, and brought up five children on her own after her husband’s death. She never had a chance to learn English and she had to endure the death of one of her sons. He was murdered during a robbery and his killer was never found.

She was as much a pioneer as the village women who lived in Ontario in the mid-1800s. Between 1923 and 1967, some Chinese-Canadian women also flew airplanes, modeled and designed clothes, and wrote for Toronto newspapers.


Spinning Thread at Black Creek Pioneer Village. Copyright ©2012 Ruth Lor Malloy

The exhibit also includes yours truly, a section with my old typewriter and camera, a copy of my first guide book on China, a magazine which printed my first stories in the 1950s, and my novel. I later published about 12 editions of the China travel guide. Yes, you can consider me a pioneer museum relic too. 

The Village’s admission prices are in the high range for this Blog ($15 for adults and $11 for children 5-15 years). The Village is open every day including holidays from May 1st to Dec 23rd. The Chinese-Canadian exhibit in the Visitors’ Centre will continue until December, 2013.

If you haven’t seen the other buildings and living exhibits in Black Creek Pioneer Village, do spend time there too. It is a charming part of Toronto’s cultural tradition with its 40 or so genuine 19th century buildings. Look for the school, church, print shop, tin smith’s shop, and black smith’s shop. Consider eating in its restaurant. It makes its own beer the old fashioned way.

The Village “looks forward to working with more groups in the future to share our stories and reflect the diversity that characterizes present-day Toronto.” It worked on this exhibit with the Multicultural History Society of Ontario. See: www.mhso.ca/chinesecanadianwomen .

Black Creek Pioneer Village is at 1000 Murray Ross Parkway, near Steeles & Jane. Tel. 416-736-1740· For more information about the Chinese-Canadian exhibit: http://www.blackcreek.ca/v2/experience/exhibits.dot .

 Please let us know what you think of it.


    1. Thanks, Tina. I’ve lived for decades in Toronto and only this year visited Black Creek Pioneer Village for the first time. It’s a delightful place with genuine old buildings transplanted from other parts of Ontario. You really get a feeling for our 19th century roots there, especially with actors dressed in costumes blacksmithing and weaving. The Chinese exhibits is a welcome addition. But the Village closes for the winter in December so get there soon. Ruth

  1. Congratulations, Ruth, for being included in the Black Creek Pioneer Village… but I knew you were a pioneer – both in mindset and deed – long before…! 🙂

  2. Thanks for the encouragement. A Xinhua reporter was present and wrote a story about the exhibit. So it got some international attention too — though she neglected to mention where the exhibit was. I think you are a pioneer too. You have led an amazing life too. Ruth.

  3. Thank you, Ruth, for all that you have done for Black Creek – from contributing items to the exhibit that reflect your career as a photojournalist, to speaking at the opening, and to posting this great write-up about Black Creek! I am looking forward to working on more exhibits like this one in the future to continue to broaden the histories we explore and the groups we work with at Black Creek. Black Creek does close to the public over the winter months (from the last Friday before Christmas until it reopens May 1st). The exhibit will be on display until the end of 2013.

  4. Congratulations, Ruth! It was a great honour to interview you for the online project. It’s so wonderful to see your work featured in the exhibit at Black Creek.

    1. I’m delighted that Black Creek is including other immigrants to Canada as pioneers. Because of the Chinese-Canadian exhibit, my husband and I finally went to see your Village for the first time. Though we’ve lived in Toronto for decades, we never got around to it. We really enjoyed our visit and the food. The presenters in village costumes from 150 years ago were great. We learned a lot. Ruth.

    2. Thanks Julia. I was really impressed at how well you have organized the mountain of information you have collected for your various multicultural projects on http://www.mhso.ca/. I hope people interested in multicultural Toronto will explore your web-site too. Ruth.

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