“More Than Tuition Money: The ‘Asia Orienting’ of the University of Michigan’s Levi Barbour Scholarship for Women from the Orient, 1917-1930.”

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Image from the South Asian American Digital Archive

Since 1917, the University of Michigan has supported the Levi Barbour Scholarship for Women from the Orient, a program that brought female students from India, China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines to Ann Arbor for undergraduate, graduate, and professional study.  On the surface, this seems like one among many scholarships provided by one Midwestern university, but the early years of the Levi Barbour program encapsulated numerous larger themes that implicated such momentous historical formations as political revolutions in Asian settings, immigration restriction in the United States, as well as the emergence of the “Modern Woman” in the early twentieth century.  Based on primary source research in the Barbour Papers at the Bentley Historical Library, this presentation will explore ways to problematize and foreground the many cultural, social, and gendered dimensions of the Barbour Scholarship.

Victor Jew teaches for the Asian American Studies Program here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  A historian by training, he is currently working on research projects that excavate the unknown history of Asian American communities in the Midwest (there are nineteen Asian-derived communities in the Midwest as recorded by the United States Census in 2010.)  His study encompasses the years, 1870 to the 2010s.  A foreshadowing of this work appeared this past April, 2015 when Wayne State University Press published Asian Americans in Michigan: Voices from the Midwest, a book that Victor Jew edited and to which he contributed.  He just learned that the book received a History Book Award from the state institution that curates history in Michigan (the award will be officially announced at the end of this month.)