China Beat Archive


Date of this Version


Document Type



2012 Feb 14 in The China Beat


Copyright 2012 Nicole Elizabeth Barnes


Gail Hershatter and her Shaanxi-native research collaborator Gao Xiaoxian (of the Shaanxi Provincial Women’s Federation) spent ten years interviewing 72 women and a few men in rural Shaanxi province in northwest China. The Gender of Memory, Hershatter’s sole-authored product of this joint effort, fills a crucial gap in historiography of the 1950s, providing the first personal stories of land reform, the 1950 Marriage Law, collectivization, and the Great Leap Forward. Moreover, through incisive gender analysis, Hershatter illustrates how gender determined not only how Chinese women and men lived their lives, but also how they remember them. Whereas male interviewees used political events as the primary signposts of their lives, women tabulated their life narratives with personal events such as marriage, childbirth, and family deaths, sometimes re-ordering or re-naming political campaigns.