A Google Doodle posted today honors Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach, known, of course, for developing the Rorschach inkblot testing protocol. At Speaking Up, we’ll turn our attention to the other side of the world and learn about Chinese poet, publisher, feminist and revolutionary figure Qiu Jin.
Qiu Jin was born on this date, November 9th, in 1875, to an affluent family, and though she lived only until 1907, she made her mark on Chinese history. As a young woman, she left an arranged marriage to pursue higher education abroad in Japan, one of many experiences that led to a desire to break out of traditional gender roles and advocate for women’s rights. Upon her return to China, Qiu founded a feminist magazine and eventually a feminist literary journal.
She argued for women’s education, and against practices like foot binding that restricted women’s literal movements and broader opportunities. Though she wrote essays and speeches, she was at her roots a poet, combining a scholarly background in classical Western literature with traditional Chinese forms of verse. Qiu’s poems include several dealing with female figures in Chinese history and others centered on feminist themes.
Politically, Qiu was involved in revolutionary anti-Qing Dynasty groups and advocated for alternative forms of government as better for women’s independence and civic freedoms. However, in mid-1907 she was arrested and executed for her political activities in advance of a planned uprising. Her legacy lived on, however, as she quickly became both a martyr for the revolutionary cause and for women’s rights in China. A museum has been established in her honor in her home prefecture of Shaoxing.