[HISTORY] Women’s and Environmental Activism in Twentieth-Century in Taiwan : the example of The Homemakers’ Union and Foundation

While walking in Gongguan area, my attention stopped a few minutes on a odd looking “ball” at a corner of a building. Everybody was passing near it without paying any attention to it.

Having a closer look at it, I could see some text written on it:


“Landmark of Women’s culture

In 1987, a group of enthusiastic homemakers decided to “speak up, act out and take responsibility” to protect the environment. As a result, The Homemakers Union and Foundation was established in 1989.”

My interest was picked. While looking for information about what could be the Homemakers Union and Foundation, I found stumbled upon a book called Women’s Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan by Doris Chang.

“On International Women’s Day in 1983, Lee Yuan-chen, a leader in Taiwan’s feminist community, urged middle-class housewives to extend their love and Concern for family to the community and the larger society.”

Women’s Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan by Doris Chang.


Cover for Chang: Women’s Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan.

Not long before the end of the Martial Law in Taiwan in 1987, women and more specifically housewives facing social changes, problems and deficiencies in the environment and educational systems, started gathering in order to act and improve their community living environment.

Their active approach addressed various aspects such as child psychology, nutrition and health standards, consumers’ rights, communication and ecology.

It is important to remember that activism and any kind of protest during Martial law was toughly repressed by then KMT-led government as described in Environmental Governance in Taiwan: A New Generation of Activists and Stakeholders by By Simona A. Grano.

While during the authoritarian era it was the KMT that defined activists as “hooligans” many sources in the environmental movement have used the word liumang 流氓 (hooligan or thief)  to describe the intimidating and rogue techniques employed by both construction companies and local governments to make them desist in their quest to stop construction projects.”

– A New Generation of Activists and Stakeholders by By Simona A. Grano. 

After the martial law, those gatherings became more officials and led to the establishment of the originally named Homemakers Union and Foundation for Environment in 1987.

“As Taiwan’s primary consumers, members of the Homemakers’ Union considered themselves to be best suited for the propagation of environmental consciousness to their children and the public”

Women’s Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan by Doris Chang.

The Foundation published multiple pamphlets and articles to newspapers and organized demonstration and mobilized municipal government to allocate human and financial resources to improve the environment and promote sustainable habits within the communities.

“The Homemakers’ Union popularized the idea of mass producing durable nylon shopping bags that could be washed, brought to grocery stores, and reused. Instead of placing purchased goods and groceries in new plastic bags that could only be used once”

Women’s Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan by Doris Chang.

I personally question myself on the results of some of their actions today especially concerning the shopping bags which are still a disaster in Taiwan where thousands of single-use plastic bags are distributed every day. But nevertheless there is no doubt that the Foundation played a great role in the improvement of Taiwan’s environmental protection since 1980.

The foundation also cosigned with other associations, the 1988 Declaration in Opposition to the Building of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant among growing concern for health hazards especially on an Island with little space for waste storage and subject to many earthquakes.


Cover for A. Grano Environmental Governance in Taiwan: A New Generation of Activists and Stakeholders

One positive note comes from Chen Man-li, the already mentioned chairwoman of the Homemakers United Foundation who, during our conversation, remarked how, in comparison to the 1990s when for activists it was quite dangerous to be working in the field of environmental protection, the situation has nowadays greatly improved, even though they still occasionally receive silent phone calls or threats, especially during a sensitive campaign (e.g., nuclear power opposition) (Chen Man-li, interview, July 20, 2011).

– A New Generation of Activists and Stakeholders by By Simona A. Grano. 

With the increasing need for gender equality the Foundation distanced itself from the dominant environmental aspect. Thus, was created in 1989, the Homemakers Union and Foundation which was later renamed the Homemakers United Foundation (HUF).

The HUF is still active as of today and expressing its voice on various topics.

To visit the website of the Homemakers United Foundation, go to: https://www.huf.org.tw/

To go further Women’s Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan by Doris Chang book preview: https://goo.gl/P2eY4Q

To go futher A New Generation of Activists and Stakeholders by By Simona A. Grano. book preview : https://goo.gl/YjXZUF




[PLACE] The Lin Ben Yuan Family Mansion & Garden


Spending a weekend in Banqiao was the perfect occasion to drop by a place that I wanted to visit for a long time: The Lin Family Mansion and Garden. I find it rare to find any remains of the time before Japanese occupation other than temples so I was pleased to be able to see Taiwan’s most complete remains of Chinese traditional architecture.


The Mansion is composed of multiple areas and building each with their own architectural specificity as well as Gardens and body of water.

The Mansion and Garden can be traced back to 1847. The Lin Family originated from the Fujian Province. Its ancestor Ling Ying-Yin moved to Taiwan in 1784. His second son Lin Ping-Hou made fortune in the rice trading business. He later divided his business between his 5 sons. Two of them associated together to create what is called today the Lin Ben Yuan Family and progressively build the house as the family residence.


Lin Hsiung-cheng, of the sixth generation, was the richest person in Taiwan in the late Japanese-ruled era

In 1949, the House served as shelter from Nationalist soldiers of the mainland. In 1982, the house opened to the public as part have been donated to the government while the rest remains privately owned.

The Lin Ben Yuan Family remains today one of the richest family of Taiwan.IMG_0988.JPG

[BOOK] Taiwan during the white terror: Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan

Warning: This book is not a tourist guide about Green Island.

My profound interest for Taiwan led me to explore the best but also the darkest moments of its history. Although Taiwan’s history is full of agitated times and conflicts, one particularly stroke me by it’s heartbreaking nature: the white terror period (1947 -1987). The Martial law effectively started in 1949, two years after the infamous  February 28 Incident in 1947 that I’ve always as the real beginning of the White Terror period.


Green Island written by Shawna Yang Ryan a Taiwanese American, is a novel about the life of a Taiwanese family during the changing time of the Island in the second half of the 20’s century.

This family navigates through times as each generation get impacted by their choices and the choices of their parents before them in the context of the KMT’s authoritarian regime under martial law. Historically accurate the book gives good insights on that period.

This book is a fiction very close to reality as most events did really happened and characters were inspired by real Taiwanese people accused (falsely or not) of opposing the dictatorial regime back then. The story leads you through a number of emotions from happiness to anger and heartbreak. I kept rooting for those people as the crushing power and control of authoritarian regimes impacted their life forever.

A powerful book that I highly recommend for everyone who really wish to better understand Taiwan the way it was not long ago and what makes Taiwan what it is today.

The video below is a quick introduction of the book by the Author herself:

Here is 49 min interview for Shawna Yang Ryan by ThinkTech Hawaii Youtube Channel: