Monday, March 19, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Tye Leung Schulze

Tye Leung Schulze
Tye Leung Schulze ran away from home at the age of 12, narrowly escaped a life of slavery, fought human trafficking, voted, married illegally and worked as an interpreter for countless immigrants. She did all of this despite being was born a female and a minority in 1887.

Tye did not face an easy life. She was the youngest of eight children born to Chinese immigrants. Her parents struggled. She attended a mission school as a very young child, but when she was nine, she was sold to another family to work for them. Her uncle, with the help of the teachers at her mission school, brought her back home. However, three years later, Tye was forced to run away. Her sister has been promised to marry a man in an arranged marriage, but ran off with another man before the wedding. Their parents wanted Tye, who was 12 at the time, to take her sister's place.

Tye ran and found refuge at the Presbyterian Mission Home, known mostly as Cameron House after the woman who ran it, Donaldina Cameron. Tye grew up at Cameron House and stayed there to help Donaldina in rescuing other Chinese girls trapped in slavery, indentured servitude and forced marriages. Tye also helped many of these girls by serving as an interpreter for them.

In 1911, Tye became the first Chinese-American woman to pass the civil servant exams and take a civil service position. She was hired to work as an assistant at the Angel Island Immigration Station. She interpreted and worked with immigrants who had been detained for various reasons upon their arrival.

In 1912, Tye made headlines for becoming the first Chinese-American woman to vote. Voting was not a right universally available to women in the United States yet, but California passed a law giving women the vote. Tye was eager to participate. Of voting, she said, "I studied; I read about all your men who wished to be president. I learned about the new laws. I wanted to know what was right, and not to act blindly... I think it right we should all try to learn, not vote blindly, since we have been given this right..."

Tye would go on to make headlines again a year later when she married Charles Schulze, a white man. The pair met at Angel Island and quickly fell in love. Interracial marriage was illegal in California at the time so, they traveled to Washington state to get married. They had to quit their jobs at Angel Island because of their marriage, and they struggled to find work after this. Tye eventually went back to school to become a bookkeeper. The pair had four children, two daughters and two sons. Charles passed away in 1935, and Tye worked two jobs to support her family. She worked as a bookkeeper at a hospital and as a nightshift telephone operator in San Fransisco's Chinatown.

In 1946, Tye was hired by the Immigration Office again to work as an interpreter. She continued to serve as an interpreter both for the government and individuals in the area until her death in 1972 at the age of 85.

Tye lived a bold life. She did not let her circumstances dictate her possibilities. She didn't stop at escaping slavery and forced marriage herself, she fought to free others from those fates even when she was very young. She voted, and took that right seriously. She married who she pleased, earned an education and worked hard to support her family. She always interpreted for anyone who needed her help. Her life was selfless and made so many other lives freer and better.

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