Amazing Alice Little (1845-1926)
Amazing Alice was little in caution and big on dreams. What did she spend much of her life doing? Trying to persuade people that the Chinese tradition of foot binding was a cruel and ugly practice. That’s because middle and upper class Han Chinese girls living up until around a hundred years ago would almost certainly have had their feet broken as children.
Tightly bound, their toes would be tucked underneath the sole of their feet in order to fit into a pair of doll-sized shoes. Small feet (“three-inch golden lilies”) were considered a mark of beauty and became a symbol of men’s power over women. But the process was incredibly painful and made feet smell like rotting flesh. Besides, the poor victims were unable to walk properly, never mind hop, skip, or play any kind of sport. They had to spend the best part of their lives at home being waited on by servants.
Can you believe that foot binding didn’t die out until the early twentieth century? That’s around the time Alice was living in Shanghai with her husband, a tea taster. Amazing Alice put her life at risk by travelling around the country campaigning against the practice and arguing with Chinese officials and scholars.
In 1900, Alice came to Hong Kong where she spoke at the Chinese Club. She also lectured at Queen’s College, where she encouraged 500 young men to consider marrying girls without fashionable bound feet. She later organised a meeting at Government House for local Chinese women and 47 of them signed up as members of her Natural Feet Society.
Amazing Alice retired in England where she wrote In the Land of the Blue Gown. The book shows that with energy and determination you can make your dreams come true.
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