Gum Moon Women's Residence
      Asian Women's Resource Center

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About Gum Moon
 
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INTRODUCTION

Founded in 1868, Gum Moon's history mirrors the ever changing needs and developments of the Asian Immigrant Community in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Arising to address the specific problems and struggles of the early Chinese railroad laborers, the Methodist Mission has, throughout the century served wherever needed. Gum Moon, as an outgrowth of the original mission, continues to be a project of the United Methodist Church. The ideology, staff, and programs offered by this Mission, therefore, are a reflection not only of the community of a specific time, but also of American society as a whole. How the country has seen and treated immigrants plays a large role in determining what needs their community has.

Although the days of anti-Chinese societies and bloody riots at Portsmouth Square in the 1800s are over, the call for mission in the Asian immigrant community continues. The first port of call for many Chinese immigrants, San Francisco today boasts the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. They come to San Francisco's Chinatown because of its multi-lingual and familiar environment. Here, they can attend school, shop, work, and live using their native language without having to leave its boundaries. A community then characterized by poverty, overcrowding, and insularity, Chinatown is often "a prison without walls."

This enclave can become oppressive and suffocating. With limited English and vocational skills, one cannot readily leave the area and build a new life elsewhere. This "prison without walls" then becomes a real prison, especially with the rising costs of real estate in San Francisco and the recent recession. Families usually live in a single room or share apartments of no more than 8x12 feet. Oftentimes, several families share roach-infested apartments, communal kitchens, and bathrooms.

With limited space and few public recreational places, growing children have few places to run, jump, play or interact with other children. Those with working parents spend time unsupervised, vulnerable to pressures and influences of the street. Mothers who stay at home are often isolated, lonely and uneducated, wanting to help their families but not knowing how or where to look first. Working long hours and days, sometimes up to seven days a week, immigrant parents are too tired and too poor to provide moral and physical support for their families. Frustration from work and a foreign environment occasionally erupts in violent behavior at home. The seeming invisibility of battered wives and abused children is not indicative of the lack of these problems but of the limited resources and support available for these individuals as well as the tendency for Chinese Americans to deal with crises alone.

Gum Moon through the AWRC and Residence Hall attempts to address the issues women and children face. Located in the heart of Chinatown, Gum Moon has serviced mainly the Chinatown community, but is open to all regardless of race, ethnicity, and creed. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the dedication of this building, rebuilt after its destruction in the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

Throughout the many years that Gum Moon and the Methodist mission here have served Chinese Americans, there have been numerous women whose time and energy made it all possible. As we reflect on the achievements of the past and hope for the future, it only seems fitting that we express our gratitude to the women who put in invaluable service and love to Gum Moon. Many names are forgotten or unrecorded and will forever be lost to us. But their legacy of courage and determination remain with us, and we wish to highlight a few pioneers of the countless committed women who have worked here. Furthermore, we recognize the achievements of other outstanding women in the larger Asian American community. As no agency can survive as an island by itself, we pay tribute to awardees of our past benefit dinners whose talents and commitment work with us in making this world a better place for Asian immigrants.

It is our desire to continue with the tradition set forth in 1868 to address the needs of the people, not to find self-glorification. In the following pages, you will discover the history of the mission and the people as well as meet the programs presently offered here for the community. And maybe, if we have kept true, Carrie Davis' prayer that we succeed where they have failed and not failed where they have succeeded continues to guide us.
 

 
   

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