Thứ Sáu, ngày 22 tháng 5 năm 2015

Education for Women and the New Woman in Colonial Vietnam *

                                       Dang Thi Van Chi

In the early twentieth century, owing to education, Vietnamese women rethought their social roles which prompted them to not only engage in fighting for their rights but also for the rights of their nation. This paper utilizes information from the press and memoirs written by female authors; it considers the Press as a channel through which women’s consciousness is manifested. The Press also helped promote the organization and development of a community practice which turned Vietnamese women from a mere social labor force into a crucial political force. This transformation contributed to Vietnam’s social change process and its global integration.

Throughout the Vietnamese history, women have contributed considerably to nation-building and national defense. However, they have not gained social statuses commensurate with their contributions. At the end of the nineteenth century, Vietnam became a French colony.[1] Women’s education during this period was the most fundamental to all modern changes in Vietnamese women’s lives. Owing to education, women rethought their social roles which prompted them to not only engage in fighting for their rights but also for the rights of their nation. This paper explores the French colonial education policy and its influence on Vietnamese women’s lives, focusing especially on the constitution and reconstitution of the consciousness of their social role. This paper utilizes information from the press and memoirs written by female authors during this period.
Methodologically, I consider the Press as a channel through which women’s consciousness is manifested. It is the channel through which women expressed their aspirations. It also helped promote the organization and development of a community practice which turned Vietnamese women from a mere social labor force into a crucial political force. This transformation contributed to Vietnam’s social change process and its global integration in the first half of the twentieth century. Additionally, the Press and the memoirs indicate a change in consciousness within a specific historical context, amidst economic, political, and cultural interactions.

No Right to Choose
Vietnam is a country located in the Indochina Peninsula of Southeast Asia. The tropical climate with a high level of rainfall and humidity has had its consequences: inhabitants of Vietnam chose wet-rice cultivation as their primary economic base. Additionally, due to Vietnam’s strategic geographical position as a link between mainland Asia and the islands of Southeast Asia, Vietnam has historically been confronted with territorial transgressions. Under these conditions, Vietnamese women had no other choice than to run the family economy and society while the men were regularly absent during their service in the army. Agricultural involvement in turn allowed women to engage in all stages of the production process.[2] Additionally, Vietnamese women were not excluded in the defense of the country against foreign invasion. The images of women at war as depicted through the popular saying, “When the invaders come, even women have to fight” (Giặc đến nhà đàn bà cũng đánh), is often evoked.
Although women had a crucial role in nation-building and national defense, the influence of entrenched Confucian ideas stripped them of the right to choose. Their life was bound both by a marriage arranged by their parents as well as by the twists and turns of that marriage. The laments of women were common:
                        I am like a piece of silk (Thân em như tấm lụa đào)
            Flying in the wind, not knowing who will grab it (Phất phơ trước gió biết
            vào tay ai)
Or:                   I am like a drop of rain (Thân em như hạt mưa sa)
            Dropping in a palace, dropping in the rice field (Hạt vào đài các, hạt ra
            ngoài đồng)

Ho Xuan Huong, one of Vietnam’s prominent female poets, only put forth a limited aspiration during her time:
            Supposing that I could become a man (Ví đây đổi phận làm trai được)
            How glorious would be the heroic enterprise   (Sự nghiệp anh hùng há bấy

 There was also an angry popular poem on the practice of polygamy:
            Damn the life with a shared husband! (Chém cha cái kiếp lấy chồng chung)
Vietnam has had a long history of Confucian learning, and the education of women in its feudal society was limited to the teaching of compliance, that is, women were required to fulfill their responsibilities to the family. The education of women was considered an element of family education as seen through  prominent publications such as Gia huấn (Family Teaching) and  Nữ huấn (Woman Teaching). In Khuyết Hiến ca, the ideas of Confucian scholars on the education of women were clear: whether a woman complies or not depends on her family; their compliance is related to the success or failure of the ethics of the family’s internal affairs. As a result, teaching should be compulsory.[3] To fulfill this need, large clans and key intellectuals such as Ho Phi Tich, Bui Duong Lich, Dang Xuan Bang, and Nguyen Tong Khue, to cite only a few,[4] prepared different types of teaching manuals on teaching women and the family. The contents of the manuals were mostly presented in the form of rhymed verses of the six-eight luc bat poetic style which was easy to memorize. The contents of Family Teaching highlighted Confucian filial piety, the spirit of patriotism, Buddhist self-sacrifice and compassion, and the spirit of community (Dang Thi Van Chi, 2011). For women, Family Teaching and Woman Teaching not only focused on the “three submissions” and the “four virtues” but also provided guidance on all aspects of social relations – from the time when they still lived with their parents to the time when they married and became the head of a household.
In Family Teaching and Woman Teaching, women were taught to live up to a particular feudal ethical standard within the Confucian framework in relation to their parents and husbands, both in life and death. These manuals were passed through generations as key textbooks for the education of women.
Vietnamese history records a substantial number of women who fought against foreign invasion such as the Trung Sisters,[5] Lady Trieu,[6] and Bui Thi Xuan,[7] to cite a few. There were also many female Vietnamese who became legends owing to their intellectual contributions such as the poets Ho Xuan Huong,[8] Lady Huyen Thanh Quan,[9] and Doan Thi Diem.[10] Nonetheless, the majority of Vietnamese women did not have a chance to receive a formal education and as a result did not have a chance to participate in the official ruling apparatus at either the national or village level.
Although official histories do not record much on women’s contributions, their image as helpers who contributed considerably to economic life as well as their crucial position in the family and society were reflected in popular sayings and proverbs,[11] through official legal stipulations,[12] and in folk culture and beliefs.[13] This recognition has become imprinted upon the national essence and tacitly implies the underlying power of Vietnamese women.

From the beginning, the French emphasized the reform of Vietnam’s education system in the context of other policies and programs aimed at colonial exploitation. At the end of the nineteenth century Vietnam became a French colony and Vietnamese society was rapidly integrated into the French-capitalist sphere. The French implemented its educational policy in several phases. Right after they seized the southern region of Nam Ky, the French established a number of new schools and gradually modified the educational content of the  schools at the commune, district, and provincial levels, introducing the French language into these schools. At that time, one priority was to train a new group of Vietnamese who could collaborate with the French and help them manage the newly-occupied territory. Although this policy of providing education to women did not receive universal support from French colonial officials, through the Press we have learned that there were Vietnamese mandarins such as Luong Du Thuc (from the Ben Tre area in the south) and Petrus Ky who deserved credit as advocates of schools for girls. Luong Du Thuc wrote: I would like to ask the government to set up schools to teach girls. During a consultative meeting with the authorities, when I asked, the Resident Superior of the southern region of Nam Ky concurred and later ordered the responsible the provincial-level unit to set up girl schools.” (Nông cổ mín đàm, 28 Aug. 1902). Although the objective of an education for girls at that time was merely to “uplift their spirit and morals and to increase their self-esteem and self-respect” (Petrus Ký) (Trinh Van Thao, 1995, p.95) as well as to help them to better carry out their role as wives and mothers (Luong Du Thuc, NCMĐ, 28 Aug. 1902), the calls from these relatively open-minded mandarins prompted the opening of schools for girls in the southern region of Nam Ky. This explains why in the southern region of Nam Ky, the number of students was higher than in other regions. The romanized script, or quoc ngu, was also used early in the southern region before the emergence of the Vietnamese language press.
After occupying the entire territory of Vietnam, the French extended its educational policy to cover the entire country. In 1886, although the total number of students in French schools was 27,473, there were still around 8,496 students, or 31% of the total, who followed classes taught by Confucian scholars in rural areas. Although the French cultural policy in Vietnam had its limitations, it brought about a profound change in Vietnam’s cultural and social life. For the first time in Vietnam’s history, women were given an opportunity to officially attend school. By 1886, the southern region of Nam Ky had set up seven girl schools with 922 female students.[14] In the northern region of Bac Ky, there were four girl schools.[15]  Overall, the Franco-Vietnamese school system consisted of three levels and lasted 13 years. The primary level lasted six years.[16] The post-primary level lasted four years. Often, this was called a college level which offerred a post-primary certificate (Diplôme d'Études Primaires Supérieurs Franco-Indigènes) after graduation. The secondary level lasted three years and entitled the graduates to a French-Vietnaemse baccalaureate.[17]
Post-primary school colleges (trường Cao Đẳng Tiểu học) with four-year programs were also established for female students who had graduated from a six-year primary school, although they existed only in Hanoi (Trung Vuong School), Hue (Dong Khanh School), and Saigon (Gia Long or Áo Tim School). Secondary schools which offered baccalaureates for both boys and girls were also established in Hanoi (Buoi School), Hue (Khai Dinh School), and Saigon (Petrus Ky School). A school exclusively for girls, the Brieux School, was opened on January 6, 1908 in Hanoi and admitted 178 students.[18] By the 1922-1923 school year, the number of students at the primary school level reached 129 (Trinh Van Thao, 1995, p.130). Dong Khanh Girl School in Hue was subsequently opened for admission in 1917. During the 1922-1923 academic year, the number of students was 358, of which 35 were secondary-level students (Trinh Van Thao, 1995, 1930).  In 1930, the number of female students in the Central Region (Trung ky) was 1,986, of which 47 were studying to become teachers and 494 were studying at the post-primary college level (Nguyen Vy, 2006, p.92). In Saigon, the first girl school was the Áo Tím (Purple Uniform) School which was opened on September 19, 1915. During its first year, it had 42 girls from the city and nearby provinces. The school offerred classes from kindergarten to college level. After graduating, students received a primary school certificate. By September 1922, the school had admitted 226 primary students and 24 secondary students (Trinh Van Thao, 1995, p.130). At first, students were divided into two groups: the teaching-training group (that is, those training to become teachers), and the general education group. After graduation, the students received a post-primary college certificate.
In 1917, education regulations officially known as General Public Instruction Regulations (Học chính Tổng Quy) were promulgated throughout the whole of French Indochina. They demanded that together with the establishment of primary schools at the commune level for boys, provinces should also establish at least one school for girls. In the case that there was no separate school for girls, boys and girls could attend the same school, but the school had to organize separate teaching for girls. Post-primary Colleges were set up in Hanoi, Hue, and Saigon only; there was no separate secondary school for girls to obtain a local Vietnamese baccalaureate (tú tài bản xứ).
    From a comparative perspective, the number of female students was small :
Table 1: Statistic of total number of girls students/total number of students in 1929, 1930 - 1931, 1938-1939, 1941, 1942 (Source: Đàn Bà paper, 1942) (Trịnh Văn Thảo, 1995)
Famale student
Total number of students
Students were concentrated in major urban centers (including cities or district towns); the number of students in rural areas was small.

Table 2: Statistic of total number of female students in rural areas/total number of female students in 1929 (Source: Nam phong, 9/1929)
No. of female students in rural areas/total number of female students
Total no. of students in rural areas/total no of students


The number of female students in the upper educational level was low. For the year 1941-1942, the number was as follows:
 Table 3: Statistic of total number of female students attending the elementary and primary   level, Post-primary female students, Secondary school female students in  1941-1942 (Source: Trinh Văn Thao, 1995, p.149)


Female students attending the elementary and primary level
Post-primary female students
Secondary school female students




 Nonetheless, there were students who continued on to the University of Indochina. Colleges of Medicine, Teaching Training, and Agriculture also admitted female students. In 1941-1942, vocational schools had admitted around 900 female students (Trinh Van Thao, 1995, p.152). The number of female teachers reached about 1,000 (Nguyen Van  Ky, 1995, p.138). These numbers, although small, indicated a considerable change in the life of Vietnamese women in particular and Vietnamse society in general.
Regarding the French educational program for girls, the General Public Instruction Regulations stated that during each day, time had to be allocated for girls to study home economics. In school, students were required to communicate in French.[19]
A memoir of a female student, Nguyen Thi Hong Van, born in 1935 at Hanh Thien Village, Phu Xuan Truong, Nam Dinh, described female education in a girl school of a provincial town (that is, Xuan Truong) in 1942 as follows: [20]
[It was] a small school with a grass field used as a playground. Classes were divided into three sets of rows with tables arranged in columns. The outermost rows were reserved for class 5 students, which was the first grade, while the middle section was reserved for class 4 students [Grade II] and the other outer rows were for class 3 students [Grade III]. Each class had around 20 students. The teacher’s table was in the middle. On the wall, there was a poster of human anatomy to be used in conjunction with class instruction. The class had two blackboards on the left and right hand sides of the room. They were not hung on the wall but were placed on wooden legs so that the teacher could turn them around and use the other side when needed.  At the end of the room was a simple wooden cubboard where teaching aids were kept. On the two walls were weekly class schedules for all the classes […] At that time, we studied two sessions every day. We started our class, stopped for a break, and ended our day following the sound of the drum … Hearing the drum signal the class time, we immediately formed a double line and marched to class regardless of whether we were in the middle of running rounds or in the middle of our restful moments. At the class entrance were two students assigned to inspect our manner: whether our dresses were buttoned, whether our hair looked neat, whether our trousers look straight, or whether our hands were dirty. [If our manner was bad] we were warned and corrected. If needed, the assigned inspectors informed the teacher who would impose some kind of penalty. The common form of penalty, whether because we did not memorize our lessons, whether we created disorder in class, or whether we lacked the required cleanliness, was for us to kneel down behind the blackboards or be struck on the palms of our hands. At the end of class in the evening, we were sent out on the playground for physical education. On Thursday mornings, students who had mishaps were taken to the Thuong Phuc health station for medicine … Every Saturday afternoon, the teacher reserved one hour to read to the class stories that had been printed in children books, called pink books. There were times when the teacher taught us how to sing.
           Because there were three classes in one room, our teacher had to prepare three sets of instructions and deliver them all at the same time. For example, at the beginning of each class, she wrote something on the blackboard for class 5 students to practice writing, then she gave math exercises for class 4 students to work on, while she worked with class 3 students on dictation. Although she had to teach three programs at the same time, she never got confused; the class progressed orderly. Even when studying class 5 which is the first class, we had to study French for the vocabulary period. When we moved up to class 4 [Grade II], we did dictation in French and when we were in class 3 [Grade III], we used French to compose our short writings appropriate to our level. Among some different subjects [geometry, history, geography, biology, composition, ethics, grammar, and home economics], I liked history the most.  At that time, we used the history book written by Tran Trong Kim Nguyễn Thị Hồng Vân,1993)

Textbooks used in Franco-Vietnamese schools were mostly duplicates; they followed the textbooks used in the French educational system but left out content considered potentially dangerous or destructive to colonial rule, especially those found in history, geography, and literature books. It is plausible to say that Western influence on female students was strong. These students were called new ladies (co gai moi or tan nu luu) by society.
The women who were educated and literate served as the foundation for the rise of women’s forums and new genres of press for women in Vietnam. At the beginning of the twentieth century, particularly after the First World War, most Vietnamese newspapers had forums for women.[21]  In 1918, the first women’s newspaper, Nu Gioi Chung, appeared, and by the 1930s, women’s newspapers had become a prominent genre in Vietnam. During the period when the women’s movement reached its peak, all three regions of Vietnam had women’s newspapers and since then, there has not been a time without the publication of a women’s newspaper. When one was closed down, others came into existence. All of the women’s newspapers stated their mottos clearly: they were written for women by women (Viet Nu Newspaper), and a flagship for action based on progressive ideas with the direct interests of our sisters (Phu Nu Newspaper).
Women’s forums and newspapers were platforms where women gained experience writing articles, and through them they expressed their aspirations and opinions  on social and gender issues. When most Vietnamese-language newspapers were censored by colonial authorities, Vietnamese patriots borrowed women’s words to express their thoughts and attitudes on French policies and to evoke patriotism and a spirit of national responsibiliy in the face of national fate. David Marr was correct when he argued that women and society had become reference points around which other problems were constructed. Hundreds of books and newspaper articles were published on all issues. Women became conscious that they formed a group of societal members who were confronted  with particular inequalities and who had particular needs” (Marr, 1995). Through the Press, women for the first time had the opportunity to express their hopes and thoughts on social and national questions as a concerned social force that shared the plight of common inequality. This was a new consciousness influenced by the new democratic ideas within the context of East-West cultural interactions.

Imagining the Nation: Memory of the National History and the Assertion of Women’s Role in Society
Education undoubtedly helped women formulate their voice. The printed press provided a forum where they could focus on women’s issues, and the articles written by women first and foremost indicate the ways in which they perceived society, family, and their role.
First published on February 2, 1918, the first women’s newspaper  Nu Gioi Chung (The bell of women)  presented in one of its early issues the notion of motherhood and wifehood. The main argument was that women contributed to society if they excelled in being a commander-in-chief at home (nội tướng) and if they adhered to a “moral female path (đạo đàn bà), a husband-wife ethic (đạo vợ chồng), and were able assistants to the parents, the husband, and the children (giúp cha, giúp mẹ, giúp chồng, giúp con). The nation-state-community (nước, quốc gia, dân tộc) was perceived as a conglomerate of villages and families; the role of maintaining harmony in the family was a contribution to the nation-state because when the family is harmonized, the village and the nation will also be harmonized, and harmonization breeds and nurtures good customary practices which in turn faciliate governance, which itself is the foundation of peace and stability (trong một nhà hoà thuận, thì trong một làng và một nước cũng được hoà thuận, đã được hoà thuận thì phong tục tốt, phong tục tốt thì bề chánh trị dễ xử đoán, chính trị dễ xử đoán thì trong nước được bình an) (Sương Nguyệt Anh,[22] Nữ giới chung, 15 Mar. 1918).
The discussion of women’s rights (nữ quyền) in NGC  indicates that at the beginning of the twentieth century, democratic ideals and the influence of international women’s movements had a major impact on the consciousness of Vietnamese women. Nonetheless, their consciousness of equality was limited to only assertions of rights to education and employment. Within the context of international integration, they were aware that books written for women in the past had concentrated mainly on ethics, teaching women to fulfill their responsiblities based on the principle of the “three submissions.” At that point, NGC had been in-print for only five months. Its last issue was released on July 19, 1918. During the ten-year period after the First World War (1914-1918), Vietnam did not have any other women’s newspapers with the exception of the Women Periodical (Tạp chí Phụ nữ) published in Hue in 1926, itself a component of the Association for Women’s Work of Hue (Hội Nữ công Huế). In this period, the French carried out their second program on the exploitation of Indochina, during which major policy changes were initiated, including an expansion of women’s education which led to an increase in the number of schooled girls. Together with social change, Vietnam’s economy and culture were heavily influenced by the French exploitation program as well as the post-war international women’s movements. Vietnamese women further changed their perception of the idea of women’s rights itself. Their perception was reinforced by their contact with the overall political movement unfolding in schools. During this period, Vietnam’s nationalist press, published by patriotic intellectuals, confirmed their belief that Vietnam had a patriotic tradition of defending national independence and freedom. It also reminded them that they were the descendants of female heroes, such as the two Trung Sisters and Lady Trieu who had engaged in struggles against foreign invaders, and that they had to be responsible for national independence and freedom. Nam Kieu (also known as Tran Huy Lieu[23]), in Dong Phap thoi bao (Eastern- France Times) had criticized the popular verse that eulogized the role of the elite and degraded the role of women which read “The citadel is built by the king, why do we need the widowed to take care of it night and day?” (Thành đổ đã có Vua Chúa xây, Can chi gái goá lo ngày lo đêm). He lamented that it had a detrimental effect as it diminished the role of women in the family and excluded them from being responsible for the fate of the nation. He observed: “Do not say that the citadel does not have to be taken care of by these ladies. Think about the two Trung Sisters and Lady Trieu Au who by themselves fought the invading troops. If the popular saying were correct, why would there have been a need for the two sisters to take charge and for Lady Trieu to risk her life?” (Nam Kiều, Đông Pháp Thời Báo, 13 Mar. 1929).
The consciousness of their role in the fate of the nation encouraged many women to participate in political struggles and to support Vietnamese patriots. This support included a call for amnesty for the prominent Phan Boi Chau[24] who had been given a death sentence as a result of his anti-French struggle and his call for national independence. Women participated in the funeral march for Phan Chau Trinh[25] a democratic activist. They also participated in protests in support of Bui Quang Chieu[26] who advocated democratic freedom for the Vietnamese people, the Yen Bai uprising by the Vietnamese Nationalist Party and its attempt to forge national liberation through the use of violence, and in communist organizations that advocated women’s participation in the national liberation revolution. Many female activists were arrested and imprisoned by the French, including Dam Phuong,[27] Phan Thi Nga,[28] Tran Thi Nhu Man,[29] Nguyen Thi Minh Khai,[30] and Nguyen Thi Luu.[31] Towards 1930, Vietnam saw the rise of the class of “new women” (tan nu luu) in society. They were active in journalism, propagating new thinking on democracy and women’s rights as well as responsibilities in society and their active role in political and social movements. Specifically, after the publication of Phu nu tan van (New Women Literature) in May 1929, between 1930 and 1945 there were approximately ten Vietnamese women newspapers in print, forming a current of women’s newspapers for women and by women.[32] Through an analysis of press articles by women during this period, we see a major change in the way in which women perceived their role and position in society. In 1929, Phu nu tan van (New Women Literature) organized a contest on topics such as “Should we praise or condemn Ms. Kieu?” and “Writing Contest on the Moral Virtues of Women” which still focused on the image of a woman as a family person based on the Confucian principles of the three submissions and four virtues.[33] By 1935, however, the image of woman had changed. Đàn Bà mới (New Women) had an opinion survey titled “Comparing Jeanne D’Arc and the Two Trung Sisters, who should receive more respect?” [Đàn bà mới-29 July, 1935]. Responses from female readers showed a considerable change in perception. Of the 763 respondents, 525 answered that the two Trung Sisters deserved more respect. The reason most often given was that the two Trung Sisters were more patriotic. Ms. Bich Thu, for example, commented that the two Trung Sisters deserved respect because they were confident in themselves in risking their lives to take revenge for the family and the nation (liều mình ra báo thù cho nhà, rửa nhục cho nước), while Jeanne D’Arc did not deserve as much respect because she fought against a foreign invader based on religious belief – following a call, and being assisted by, God. Those who responded that Jeanne D’Arc deserved more respect largely reasoned that the Trung Sisters’ uprising against the Han-Chinese invaders was motivated by their wish to take revenge on behalf of one of the sister’s husbands. Despite their different opinions, the respondents’ answers shared common themes of patriotism, struggle against foreign invasion, and national independence as evaluation criteria. This indicates that in their values, the nation and the ethnic community were sacred, requiring individual sacrifices in an impartial and selfless way.
In another opinion survey organized by Đàn Bà mới,[34] responses showed that the concept of equality between the sexes was becoming more prominent. In one response, Ms. Bich Ngoc stated: “the wife is a person as much as the husband and she should have the right to do whatever he does […] whoever is more intelligent has the right to take charge of social affairs.”

Consciousness of Human Rights and the Struggle for Women’s Liberation and Equality between the Sexes
 In addition to democratic ideals and French cultural influence, awareness of individual freedom had an effect of igniting a reconsideration of the old moral values such as chastity, polygamy, familism and the three submissions, and blazed new ideas of marital choice, and freedom to happiness.
 Phu nu tan van published a series of critical articles against feudal morals.[35] The authors, especially Phan Khoi, began with an investigation of how Confucian theory related to women, such as on the topic of the rights of divorced and widowed women. Phan Khoi also asked whether the principle of the three submissions and four virtues were still appropriate. Finally, he concluded that “a law that prohibited divorced and widowed women from remarriage was unjust and unethical; it violated the rights and interests of women and does not contribute to modernization. Getting rid of this law is just.” (Phụ nữ Tân văn, 13 Aug. 1931)
 In addition to reconsidering the value of chastity and the imposition of certain regulations on divorced or widowed women, people throughout society began to question the principle of the three submissions and argued that it was no longer suitable as women needed to participate in all social affairs. “Women are offering their intelligence and labor, and for men to keep them under the principle of the three-submissions is a self-contradiction.” This newspaper article borrowed a phrase from one of John Stuart Mill’s writings for its conclusion: “Men forcing women to be submissive is an act against humanism and justice” (Công Luận, 5 May 1932).
This reconsideration of moral and ethical values was clearly manifested in the results of surveys from readers’ opinions published in New Women. The April, 1935 issue of New Women surveyed the question “Should divorced or widowed women be able to remarry?” Of 24 respondents, 17 were of the opinion that they should be allowed the freedom. Many readers commented that the restrictions on divorced and widowed women were an imposition and the demand that they devote their lives to raising children alone was “a crime and inhumane.” Later, in June, 1935, another survey in the same magazine entitled “If a wife is barren, should the husband seek a minor wife?” continued to show the changing attitude on polygamy – a rather substantial change compared with accepted norm at the beginning of the twentieth century.[36] Another survey entitled “Should Self-Liberation be Allowed? raised the question of how a wife should react if her husband left her for another woman. Here again, the results showed a change in attitude: 12 of the 14 respondents supported a woman’s right to liberate herself from the marriage.[37]
In the 1930s, a series of suicides took place in major cities such as Hanoi and Saigon, that was labeled “a suicide-plague” (nạn dịch tự tử) by the Press. The phenomenon was considered as stemming from forced or arranged marriages and the spirit of the mega-family. Phụ nữ tân văn (NewWomen Literature) commented that the deaths of the young women occurred because of the male-oriented family structure, and that these deaths could be considered as an alarm that informed society on the injustice of feudal ethics. Ms. Nguyễn Đức Nhuận[38] called it,a fixed, one-dimensional social principle” because “to date, there have been no men who have committed suicide in the name of chastity.” She commented,The use of suicide as a weapon will not be as good as the organization of ourselves for a new principle and system of equality” (Phụ nữ Tân văn, 26 Nov. 1931).
Under the title Women and Love, Thach Lan wrote, “The concept of love that appears in society is supportive of women’s rights. Women may discuss love and demand the freedom to love, that is, we may stand amidst different social groups and proclaim that we are not objects for men to arrange at will, we are also human beings like men and as such we should have the right to choose our spouses” (Phụ nữ Tân văn, 13 Aug. 1931). Thach Lan commented on Phan Khoi’s statement[39] that love outside marriage was inappropriate, arguing instead that “if marriages and clans were not built on love, then marriage and clan would be inappropriate” (hôn nhân nào, gia tộc nào không do ái tình gây nên thì cũng là chuyện bá láp) (Phụ nữ Tân văn, 13 Aug. 1931). Freedom of marriage had also become a slogan in the communist movement. As a result, the peasant and worker revolutionary movements under the leadership of the Communist Party merged and harmonized with the movement that advocated freedom of marriage and the women’s liberation movement.
   In the 1940s, for the first time, the “rights of women to love” was mentioned as an element of the equality of the sexes; women’s entitlement to happiness in their marriage were also emphasized (Đàn bà, 1 Aug. 1939). One article commented that in the past, especially under feudalism, attention was given to the husband’s needs and wants, and women had to be submissive. This was injustice and “a value bias for women.” A good, progressive and fair husband had to learn to maintain the spirit and health of his wife. The article concluded: “if the rights of women in love were not extended and not understood correctly by men, and if the way in which women loved was not respected, the foundation of the reason would be in jeopardy – prostitution would continue and true love would never emerge in a society where men abused their power as husbands” (Đàn bà, 18 Aug. 1939). Đàn bà mới also discussed the art of the husband-wife interaction as well as the first night of the marriage.

Rethinking of the Old Moral Value and the Rise of Ideal Images of Women
The discussion of “new women” in the 1930s indicated that society was forced to rethink the image of the ideal women by distinguishing “the old” from “the new.” Women newspapers were enthusiastic about an ideal woman based on a harmonization of good traditional Eastern traits and crystallized features of Western civilization. New Women posed a problem: “There must be a definition of the new” (Đàn bà mới, 26 Aug. 1935), in attempting to understand “in our current society, what is meant by new woman” (Đàn bà mới, 24 Aug. 1936), and “how important the position of the new woman in the family and society is” (Đàn bà mới, 5 Oct. 1936).
When comparing “old” and “new” women, Chung Thi Van portrayed the image of the old woman as one who continually sacrificed her life. She also observed: “all were moved by this image: moved, as the woman devoted her life to her family, and melancholic as the woman carried on with her life without actually living.” According to the author, “Before realizing their responsibility in society, a woman needs to understand that she has a life. This is her key task: the task to become a human being. New women, in fact, are not inferior to their former counterparts in the realm of the family. Additionally, new women have a perspective on their position and responsibility in society” (Đàn bà mới, 24 Aug. 1936).          
The authors attempted to distinguish between fake and real new women without assuming that all new women should be criticized. Ms. Kim Cham argued that it was a mistake “to mix those with thick make-up on and who earn their living by prostituting themselves with those who may put some make-up on but were not that decadent,” or when categorizing those not following the conservative path as belonging to the other group. At that time there were a lot of women who had professions and who were still able to responsibly take care of their families (Đàn bà mới, 26 Aug. 1935). Van Tam, from another newspaper, commented that new women would be those wives who took care of their families but who were also active in social affairs (Đàn bà mới, 24 Aug. 1936). Mong Thu and Nguyen Thi Minh Ph also commented that it would be respectable if “our sisters followed the new both in its forms and spirit and thus understood the word ‘new’ the way it is meant” (Đàn bà mới, 5 Oct. 1936).
The story of Ms. Nguyen Huu Thi Lan who became Queen Nam Phuong was considered an icon of the new class of women, that is, a woman, well-educated, who could still retain the traditional style. Tu Hoa, a writer, commented that if Ms. Lan had not been considered a modern woman who had had a chance to study in the West, been exposed to civilized practices, and been familiar with the Western spirit, or if she had not been allowed to socialize freely, she probably would not have been chosen as queen. This event confirmed the current trend that even women could not avoid the influence of the civilization and education from the West. As a result, Tu Hoa concluded: our sisters should study to the extent that they can but no matter how advanced they become, they should still retain the spirit of the Vietnamese people” (Hoàn cầu tân văn, 12 Apr. 1934).
Van Tam, another writer, put forth a number of conditions regarding “new women in the present-day society.” First and foremost, they would have to relinquish four bad psychological traits, including lack of self-reliance, jealousy, craving for personal prestige, and selfishness (ỷ lại, ghen ghét, hiếu danh, ích kỷ), and five bad practices including gambling, superstition, lack of realism, laziness, and thoughtless risk-taking (đánh bạc, mê tín, xa xỉ, lười biếng, nhắm mắt làm liều). They need to acquire four positive conditions: morality, intelligence, sports, and skills (đạo đức, trí thức, thể thao và kỹ năng) (Đàn bà mới, 24 Aug. 1936).
One of the images of a modern woman described in the newspaper Phụ nữ thời đàm was “being dressed and using accessories in a modern way; white trousers, colored shirts, high-heeled shoes, white teeth, talking to men in French, writing articles for a newspaper, and using the term female intellectual (nu si) on their name card.” Nonetheless, the article also emphasized: “modern women need to have a new consciousness, a new ideology, and a new set of activities” (Phụ nữ thời đàm, 29 Oct. 1933).
Being well-dressed and in style were ways toward modernity. Women courageously raised their voices to defend what they considered a justifiable need to be beautiful: “We’ve gotten rid of the old chicken-tail hair style, replaced dyed black teeth with white, use lipstick in place of betel-chewing …, wear silky white trousers instead of the old thick black pants which we could not tell whether they were clean or dirty (although the elders said they were clean because they were black) …” (Phong hóa, 8 June.1934).
New women changed the scene on the street with their colorful ao dai dress which showed a combination of traditional style and Parisian fashion.[40] It either highlighted their soft and seductive feminine aspects or their physical strength when they were in short pants on their bike. Women no longer complied with the strict Confucian demands regarding male-female interaction; they went with their male friends to the cinema, the theatre, the dance hall, and the sports stadium.
Interviews of female intellectuals conducted by the newspaper Women (Dan ba) in 1942 showed that the majority of these intellectuals had aspirations to further their education and work in areas they had studied while still being committed to their family responsibilities.[41]
Overall, the image of the woman ideally suitable to Vietnam’s new era and consciousness included genuine newness. This newness referred to a woman who knew how to harmonize the traditional moral requirements of “a tender mother and versatile wife with the demands of civilized society. Additionally, they would have professions that allowed them to be independent, educate their children scientifically, maintain equality between the sexes, and participate in social activities as well as struggle against social injustice.

Struggle for Self-Determination
Being conscious about their role in society, women concluded that in order to master their own destiny they had to participate in the election process as candidates and politicians. As a result, they joined the national liberation struggle, a precondition for women rights.
During the campaign for democratic freedom that unfolded from 1936 to 1939, many female intellectuals wrote propagandistic pieces to disseminate Marxist thought on women’s rights, mobilized women to struggle, set up an Action Committee, and put forth slogans guiding women to fight for their interests. Some specific key interests were: universal suffrage; rights to employment, equal employment, treatment and pay; and expansion of schools and physical training centers for women.
On September 24, 1936, in Hanoi, 30 women met at the headquarters of the Association for Knowledge on Hang Quat Street in order to discuss the drafting of a document on aspirations (dan nguyen). Doan Thi Tam Dan was the chairperson, and Ms. Tam Kinh (or Tran Thi Trac) and Ms. Dinh Thi Phuong were the secretaries. The meeting discussed the following problems: the opening of a primary school for girls without age restriction, women’s right to vote, and the setting up of committees to focus on women’s aspirations related to their occupation (such as committees for labor, commerce, agriculture, engineering, nursing, public works, and journalism). In Dong Thap newspaper, Ms. Song Nga emphasized that women needed to have the right to vote, which would allow them to participate in social work as well as to protect themselves. “When women have the right to choose their representatives,” she said, they can expect the fulfillment of their aspirations (Đông Pháp, 4 Oct. 1936).
The meeting to discuss Aspirations was praised by the Press as “the first time that women in Indochina met to act politically” (Đàn bà mới, 26 Oct. 1936)The Press during this period had played a role as an organizer of the women’s struggle and it had clearly contributed greatly to the transformation of women into a political and social force within the common struggle for national liberation – an objective to be reached as a precondition for the realization of women’s rights.
The peak of the commitment to women’s self-determination was manifested in the general uprising of August, 1945. According to a description by Ms. Le Thi[42] who had directly participated in many activities prior to the uprising and during the period of August 17-19, 1945, which led to the uprising itself, Hanoi women were enthusiastic about the mobilization conducted by the Indochinese Communist Party and a large number of them joined the Party’s activities. During the meeting organized for civil servants by the provisional Tran Trong Kim government (set up by Japanese occupation troops), Ms. Nguyen Khao Dieu Hong “seized the podium” to introduce the Viet Minh Front and the plan to seize power to establish the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The meeting quickly turned into a protest and a march. Ms. Le Thi recalled, “A lot of women joined. Hanoi girls wore their ao dai and white trousers. Women who worked as petty traders wore black trousers and wide-sleeved shirts. I cannot adequately describe the passion, the happiness, and the spirit of revolution during those days. I can only say that before that moment in Hanoi, not very many women had walked on the street. During that time, they marched, waved the flag, and loudly chanted slogans. They did not seem to feel ashamed to act that way.”  [Doan Trang , 2009]
The general uprising of August 1945 brought independence and freedom to the Vietnamese people. At the same time, it also opened a new chapter of Vietnamese history. This achievement became possible due to the contributions of women as a political force. In the provinces, there were women who became leaders during the uprising; they organized and led the uprising and set up a revolutionary government. Some key figures were Ms. Ha Thi Que in Bac Giang, Ms. Truong Thi My in Ha Dong, Ms. Phan Thi Ne in Hoi An, Ms. Nguyen Thi Dinh in Ben Tre, and Ms. Tran Thi Nhuong in Sa Dec.

Epilogue: “Fit for Public Work, Versatile at Home” – A Traditional Continuity?
After the August uprising succeeded on September 2, 1945, two women at the Ba Dinh Square (Ms. Duong Thi Thoa aka Le Thi, and Ms. Dam Thi Loan) had the honor of raising the national flag at the moment when President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence to proclaim the birth of the new republic. Clause 9 of the 1946 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam mandates: “the strength of the nation is in the hands of the Vietnamese people, regardless of ethnicity, gender, economic well-being, class, or religion … Women and men are equal in all areas.
   Answering interviews before the first national elections of the National Assembly, Ms. Doan Thi Tam Dan, a candidate for the Hanoi area, expressed her thoughts, “whether being a National Assembly deputy or a teacher, I wholeheartedly offer my service.” Ms. Doan Thi Tam Dan became one of the ten women who were elected deputies of the first session of the National Assembly of Vietnam. Although female deputies only formed a modest percentage of the entire Assembly, this small achievement marked a crucial victory for Vietnamese women on the road toward human, and women’s, rights – a result of the process of contestation by Vietnamese women for over half a century.
Women who had received an education during the French period contributed considerably to education and the sciences in Vietnam. They were Ms. Hoang Xuan Sinh, Ms. Ngo Ba Thanh, Ms. Dang Bich Ha, Ms. Dang Thi Hanh, Ms. Dang Thanh Le, Ms. Dang Anh Dao, Ms. Le Thi, Ms. Dang Xuyen Nhu, and Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Chi …
 After independence, the Vietnamese had to fight two wars in order to defend national independence (1946-1954) and to unify the country (1954-1975). Vietnamese women in both northern and southern Vietnam had no other choice but to both engage in production in the place of the men who had been recruited into the army, and also join the fighting forces. They deserved the recognition given to them by the government, “Indomitable, heroic, upright, and versatile” (anh hùng, bất khuất, trung hậu, đảm đang) [ Nguyễn Thị Thập,1981, p 9]
At present, Vietnamese women are fully equal to men under the law. The Law on Gender Equality, passed by the National Assembly on November 29, 2006, which became effective from July 1, 2007 onwards, was aimed at further creating favorable conditions for women to realize their equal rights.
Since 1989, the General Confederation of Labor of Vietnam has been initiating a movement to promote “excellence in public duty, versatility in house work.” The objective has been to mobilize contributions from women for the industrialization and modernization of the country. This continues to be another recognition of Vietnamese women’s traditional role in a new development context.
According to reports from the National Assembly Committee for Social Problems[43] women are currently present in almost every occupation in society.[44] Nonetheless, statistics show that women form the main work force in occupations that are simple or that require a low level of training. Only a small percentage of women work in occupations that require a higher level of training, at a leadership level, or in an occupation related to state management.[45] For example, the percentage of women who have graduated from a university is approximately the same as that of men, and graduated women tend to have higher marks than their male coutnerparts,[46] yet, the percentage of women who go on to earn a Master’s or Doctorate, or who become an associate professor or professor, has remained low. The question then is whether to assign the responsibility of this difference to women, to the public, or to the family? Which area, or combination of areas has created pressure on women and has limited their ability to excel in what they are doing? Additionally, although there has been movement to encourage competition and to recognize the twin capacities of  “working for the public and being versatile at home,” one may ask whether this is what women aspire to become or if, in fact, they merely aspire to live the way they want and to do the work they like. This article ends the discussion of the impact of the education for women in colonial Vietnam by looking to the future, asking the question: In the modern and globalized context of the twenty-first century, do women need to rethink their role and their rights in the family and society?


[1] On September 1, 1858, the French attacked Da Nang, and in 1862, the Nguyen dynasty signed an agreement that recognized French authority over three provinces of the Eastern region of Nam Ky: Gia Dinh, Dinh Tuong, and Bien Hoa. In 1867, the French seized the rest of the western region of Nam Ky and in 1874, the Nguyen signed an agreement to recognize the French presence in the south. In 1884, the Nguyen had another agreement with the French, the Patenotre Agreement of June 6, 1884, which recognized the French authority over the entire territory of Vietnam. This Agreement divided Vietnam into three parts: Tonkin (the northern region of Bac Ky), Annam (the central region), and Cochinchina. These three regions were placed under different types of administration as if they were three separate countries. The southern region (Cochinchina) was a French colony; the northern and central regions were French protectorates but were still under the rule of the Nguyen. In 1887, the French established the entity known as the “Indochina Union” consisting of Tonking, Annam, Cochinchina, and Cambodia. In 1893, Laos also became a part of Indochina.
[2] One feature of petty agricultural production was that individual families were the production units. This required close labor coordination between women and men, and allowed women to participate in every stage of the production process: preparing the soil, sowing, irrigating, weeding, fertilizing, and harvesting. The common image of rural Vietnam was: “In the upland rice field, in the lowland rice field, the husband, the wife and the buffalo works.” (“Trên đồng cạn, dưới đồng sâu, chồng cày, vợ cấy, con trâu đi bừa”). Western merchants and missionaries arriving in Vietnam between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries observed that Vietanmese women were very versatile, participating in both production and commerical activities. Father Jean Koffler who was in Dang Trong from 1740 to 1755 observed that the native women were very skillful in weaving cotton and silk. They also dyed the thread into different colors and were also skillful in making cake and candy. Women cultivated tobacco and cotton trees while also selling the products at the market or shops of foreign owners.  (“Họ (phụ nữ) rất khéo léo trong việc dệt vải bông và lụa. Họ cũng nhuộm những thứ này thành nhiều màu khác nhau. Họ cũng rất khéo trong việc làm bánh và mứt kẹo…Phụ nữ trồng thuốc lá, trồng bông, phụ nữ buôn bán ở chợ hay cửa hiệu của người ngoại quốc”) (Cited in Trần Quốc Vượng, 1972, p. 17)
[3] Document no. AB.53, Han-Nom Research Institute (44 pages; 20x13) consists of three documents in the nom language:  Khuyết hiếu ca, Trường hận ca, which was a nom translation; and Cảnh Phụ Châm.  See information in Hoang Van Lau, 1984. 
[4] According to statistics compiled by Le Thu Huong (1996), the Han Nom material collection has 35 documents in the category of family teaching and the education of women. Of these 35 documents, nine focus specifically on the education of womenGiáo nữ di quy by Tran Hoanh Muu; Huấn nữ diễn âm ca by Nguyen Dinh Thiet, and materials from anonymous writers such as Huấn nữ tử ca, Huấn nữ tử giới.  Huấn nữ tam tự thư, Nữ học diễn ca, and Nữ bảo châm. Most of the material on family teaching includes sections for daughters both when are under their parents’ care and later under their husbands’. See additional discussion from Pham Hoang Quan published by Phuong Dong Publication House in 2005.
[5] This refers to Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, the two women who rose up against the Han occupation around 40 AD. Their reign lasted for three years, from 40-43 AD.
                  [6] Lady Trieu Thi Trinh rose up against the Ngo administration in 248 AD.
                  [7] A female general in the Tay Son army who helped defeat the invasion of the Qing Chinese and the Siamese.
                  [8] She lived at the end of the eighteenth century and wrote poems aspiring for equality between the sexes.
                [9] A female poet with well-known poems on patriotism.
                  [10] Doan Thi Diem (1705-1748) lived during the Le dynasty. She authored Truyền kỳ tân phả and translated Chinh phụ ngâm (Song of the Soldier’s Wife) by Dang Tran Con.
[11] Vietnamese folk poems and proverbs describe women’s roles:
My dear husband, if you need to join the army, you may go(Chàng ơi phải lính thì đi)
I am here to stay and to tend our home (Cửa nhà sau trước đã thì có em)
You leave and I stay home(Anh đi em ở lại nhà,)
To take care of our old mother and our young child (Hai vai gánh vác mẹ già con thơ…)
Our property may come from our parents (Tiền gạo thì của mẹ cha)
But I am responsible for your study, the ink and the paper (Cái nghiên, cái bút thật là của em)
Next year when the harvest is good and we have a lot of money(Sang năm lúa tốt, nhiều tiền)
            I will use it to pay capital tax for you, my dear husband (Em đem đóng thuế, đóng sưu cho chồng)
[12] The Hong Duc Law stipulated: Daughters have the same right as sons to inherit the family’s property (Clause 388, p.152). When they get married, this portion of property remains theirs. When their husband dies, and if there are no children, then the wife receives half of the property (Clause 375). For a family without a son, the daughter will inherit the land used for ancestor worship (Clauses 391-397). On marriage, the wife has the right to ask for a divorce if the husband is handicapped, commits a crime, or squanders property (Clause 322). Women also have the right to file for a divorce if the husband does not return to her for a long period of time (Clause 308). The husband cannot abandon his wife if she contributes to the development of family property, performs required funeral rites for deceased in-laws, or has no other place to turn to (Quốc triều hình luật, 2003).
[13] The cult of the Holy Mother (Dao Mau) that worships Mother Lieu Hanh appeared in the seventeenth century. It was rooted in the Viet’s traditional worship of the mother goddess. In addition, images of women in daily life appeared in the decorations of village communal houses – places which allowed strictly only men to enter to perform rituals for the local deities or to hold meetings.
[14] Based on Paullus and Bouninais  in La France en Indochine and Paul Bonnetain in L’extrème Orient, both of which are cited by Nguyen Anh (1967), op cit, p.42.
[15] Based on G. Dumoutier, Les debuts de Lénseignement Francais au Tonkin, cited by Nguyen Anh (1967), op cit, p.44.
[16] The primary level consisted of six classes:  cours enfantin; cours préparatoire; cours élémentaire; cours moyen 1e année, cours moyen 2e année, and cours supérieur. The first  three years were grouped as the elementary level; the rest was called the primary level.
[17] After two years, students took the first baccalaureate examination. If they passed, they continued on to the third year. The third year consisted of two sections: philosophy and math.
[18] Based on the newspaper Women (Dan ba) published in the spring of 1942. It argued that this was the first girl school in the northern region of Bac Ky and also the first girl school for Indochina. It is possible that  this was among the first French-established post-primary colleges for girls.
                [19] Association of Female Alumi of Gia Long (Hội ái hữu cựu nữ sinh Gia Long),, pp.1-2.
[20] This is a personal memoir of Nguyen Thi Hong Van (1935-1994), who was the niece of an official in former Phu Nho Quan (now Ninh Binh province), Dang Vu Tro.  Her paternal grandfather, Nguyen Tat Tai, was a cu nhan (that is, first-level scholar) in Chinese studies, but did not become a mandarin.  He remained in his home town to teach and to practice traditional medicine. From 1955 to1978, Ms. Nguyen Thi Hong Van was a secretary who did typing work for the Confederation of Labor in Hai Phong, and from 1978 to 1990, she was an administrative secretary for the Department of Scientific Socialism at the Nguyen Ai Quoc Political Academy (often called Nguyen Ai Quoc Advanced Party School, now known as the HCM Political Academy). This Personal memoir   have been kepting at the her family. Part of this individual memoir has been published by the Department of Education and Training of  Xuan Truong District,  Nam Dinh Province in November, /2012
[21] Trung bắc tân văn had a column entitled “Women’s Words”; Than chung Newspaper and Cong luan had sections called “Voices from Female Friends”; Khai hoa Daily had “Women’s Prose” and “Women Forum”; Dong Phap Daily had “Women’s Prose” and “Words from Common Women”; Ha thanh Ngo báo (Ha thanh Newspaper) had “Complaints” and Van Minh Newspaper had “Forum for Women.”
[22] Suong Nguyet Anh (1864-1921) was the key writer for the first women newspaper – Nữ giới chung – newspaper in the history of Vietanmese press.
[23] Tran Huy Lieu (1901-1969) is a journalist for Dong Phap thoi bao (1923-1929). He was also a literary writer, a revolutionary activist, and a historian. He was the first chairperson of Vietnam’s History Association and also an honorable scientist at the Dong Duc Academy Science. In 1945, he was deputy chair of the Committee for National Liberation and presided over Emperor Bao Dai’s abdication, marking the end of the feudal period in Vietnam.
[24] Phan Boi Chau (1867-1940), whose real name was Phan Van San, also known as Phan Sao Nam, was a famous revolutionary of the twentieth century. He was the leader of the Dong Du movement (1905- 1908) that brought Vietnamese youths to Japan to study. He also set up the Vietnam Restoration Party, a patriotic organization advocating armed struggle to win independence.
[25] Phan Chau Trinh (1872-1926) was a revolutionary of the twentieth century who led many movements to promote democracy.
[26] Bui Quang Chieu (1872-1945) was a politician who was active in national independence activities at the beginning of the twentieth century. He was the head of the Constitutionalist Party and also the editor of three newspapers: Tribune Indochinoise, L'Echo Annamite, and Đuốc Nhà Nam.
[27] Dam Phuong (1881-1947), or Ton nu Dong Canh, was affiliated with the royal family in Hue. She was one of the very first women who wrote for newspapers. She was the editor of Phu nu Tung san journal, the head of the Association for Women Work in Hue iself, which was the first women’s organization in the twentieth century.
[28] Phan Thi Nga was a journalist and a women’s rights activist.
[29] Tran Thi Nhu Man participated in producing the magazine Phu nu tung san. She was the vice-chair of the Association for Women’s Work in Hue.
[30] Nguyen Thi Minh Khai (1910-1941) was a Vietnamese revolutionary and a leader of the Indochinese Communist Party during the 1930s. She wrote for the newspapers to mobilize women to advocate Marxist women’s rights. She was arrested by the French and sentenced to death in 1941.
                [31] Nguyen Thi Luu was a revolutionary activist who also wrote for newspapers to mobilize support from women.
[32] Phu nu tan van (New Women Literature) (1929-1935), Đàn bà mới (New Women) (1934-1936), Nữ lưu (Elite Women Class) (1936-1937), Nữ công tạp chí (Women Work Journal) (1936-1938), Nữ giới (Women) (1938-1939) in Saigon; Phụ nữ thời đàm (Women Era) (1930-1934), Việt Nữ (Viet Women) (1937), Phụ nữ (Women) (1938-1939), Đàn bà (Women) (1939-1945), Bạn gái (Girl Friends) (1945), and Viet Women (Viet nu) (1945) in Hanoi; and Phu nu tan tien (Progressive Women) (1932-1934) in Hue. See Đặng Thị Vân Chi, 2006.
[33] In 18 articles participating in the contest that called for an evaluation of Thuy Kieu, a protagonist in the famous book, The Story of Kieu by Nguyen Du, only four contributors concluded that Kieu deserved praise. The other 14 articles criticized Kieu. The pieces that praised Ms. Kieu focused on themes of individual freedom, freedom of love, and women’s aspirations to happiness. Those that criticized Kieu used feudal ethical standards such as avoidance of physical interaction between men and women and chastity. Articles on female virtues praised women who were versatile and faithful as well as dependable as nurturers.
[34] Opinion Survey “The wife is more intelligent, the husband is more intelligent, and both are the same: Which family is happier?” (Đàn bà mới, 30, March, 1935)
[35]The  chastity - the  virtue and the chaste” (Chữ Trinh- cái tiết với cái nết) [ Phu nu tan van-19, September1929],   “Discussion more about the freedom of marriage “ (Bàn thêm về tự do kết hôn ) [Phu nu tan van-, October/1929], “The family regime in our country in comparison with Confucian moral “ (Cái chế độ gia đình ở nước ta đem gióng với luân lý Khổng Mạnh [Phu nu tan van-3, June 1930] “whether the principle of the three submissions and four virtues were appropriate any longer?” ( Tam tòng tứ đức ngày nay có còn thích hợp  với chị em ta không ) [ Phu nu tan van- 30 July 1931],  “The Sung Confucianist with the women” (Tống Nho với phụ nữ) [ Phu nu tan van 13 August 1931] , “ The women with  love” ( Đàn bà với ái tình )[ Phu nu tan van-13 August 1931], “ A Harmful of the great family regime-  mother in law and-daughter in law”  (Một cái hại của chế độ đại gia đình- Bà gia với nàng dâu )[ Phu nu tan van – 26 August 1931]…
[36] According to a survey conducted by Nguyen Van Vinh in 1907, of 200 people asked, nobody objected to a man who had more than one wife.
[37] Within the group that supported women’s self-liberation, there was a comment that read “only the conservatives who wanted to hang on to the old practices criticized self-liberation,” and “forcing women to accept the enslavement and dictatorship of the mega-family was something to be eliminated”.
[38] Nguyen Duc Nhuan, whose real name was Cao Thi Khanh, was the chair of Women Prose.
[39] Phan Khoi (1887-1959) was a famous journalist during the colonial period.
[40] The original version of the modern ao dai (Vietnam’s long dress), according to Tan A newspaper, was a creation of the Vietnamese in 1921. It was influenced by the style of a famous French fashion designer, Doenillet. In 1929, the ao dai style was brought to Hanoi by a Vietnamese fashion designer, Chu Huong Mau, and was called the Lemur-style ao dai by Cat Tuong, a Vietnamese artist. Sometime between 1933-1934, Hanoi women began to wear the ao dai on a regular basis, and this practice spread all over the country. See Phạm Thu, 1997, “Phụ nữ Việt Nam với ý thức về cái đẹp và lịch sử chiếc áo dài dân tộc” (Vietnamese women, Consciousness of Beauty, and the History of the Vietnamese Ao Dai, a conference proceeding participated by female staff members at the Vietnam National University, Hanoi.)
[41] Women Newspaper (Bao dan ba) dated February 9, 1942 presented an interview of Ms. Vu Thi Hien who had a B.A. from France, and Ms. Kim Oanh who was an agricultural engineer. Ms. Vu Thi Hien commented, “After finishing my B.A, I wanted to continue … I also hoped to be able to continue forever … to increase my intellectual abilities and to be more useful to my family and society (p.22). Ms. Kim Oanh stated, “I saw the importance of family power and authority. Although I work outside the family realm, I still believe that if we want the family to prosper, women have to work for it” (p.23).
[42] Ms. Le Thi is the former Director of Research Institute on the Family and Gender. She participated in two key events related to the August Revolution: the public meeting on August 17 and the general uprising on August 19 in Hanoi. She was also one of the two young girls who were assigned to raise the national flag on independence day, September 2, 1945 (the other person was Ms. Dam Thi Loan, the wife of General Hoang Van Thai), according to an interview published in Vietnam Week dated August 18, 2006 titled, “August 19 – the Uprising of the Empty-Handed” by Doan Trang.
[43] Report on monitoring the implementation of gender equality and the deployment of the Law on Gender Equality of 2009. [online] Available at:
[44] The percentage of women participating in production is 83% compared with that of men, which is 85%. 46% of women work in the civil service system and 41.12 % in business. Nonetheless, the percentage of women working in simple labor work is 53.64%. [online] Available at:

[45] The increasing percentage of female students by year from 2004 to 2007 is: 47.79%, 48.49%, 53.32%, respectively. [online] Available at: <>

[46] The percentage of female deputies for the National Assembly Session XI (2002-2007) was 27; Session XII (2007-2011) 25.76; and Session XIII (2011-2015) 24.4. In government agencies, women are often appointed as deputy heads. Rarely, though, are they appointed as heads of an agency. [online] Available at:

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From women’s newspapers:
1. Nữ giới chung (NGC) 1918. Sài Gòn.
2. Phụ nữ tân văn (PNTV) (1.5.1929-21.4.1935). Sài Gòn.
3. Phụ nữ thời đàm (PNTĐ) (8.12.1930-20.6. 1931). Hà Nội. PNTĐ tập mới (17.9.1933).        
4. Phụ nữ tân tiến (PNTT) (1.7.1932-15.7.1933). Huế.
5. Đàn bà mới (ĐBM) (1.12.1934-4.6.1937). Sài Gòn.
6. Việt nữ (VN) (7.4.1937-11.1937). Hà Nội.
7. Nữ Lưu (NL) (22.5.1936- 4.6.1937).
8. Nữ công tạp chí (NCTC) (10.1936-8.1938). Sài Gòn.
9. Nữ giới (NG) (11.1938-11.1939). Sài Gòn.
10. Phụ nữ (PN) (16.2.1938-4.1939). Hà Nội.
11. Đàn bà (ĐB) (24.3.1939-1945). Hà Nội.
12. Việt nữ (VN) (26.10.1945-26.1.1946).
13. Bạn gái (BG) Tuần báo. (1945). Hà Nội.
14. Đại Nam Đăng cổ tùng báo (ĐNĐCTB) (28/3/1907-14/11/1907) Hà Nội
15. Đông Dương Tạp chí (ĐDTC) (15/5/1913-15/6/1919) Hà Nội
16. Trung Bắc Tân văn (TBTV)(1/1/1915- 4/1941) Hà Nội
17. Nam Phong (NP) (7/1917-1935) Hà Nội
18. Hà thành Ngọ báo (HTNB) (1/6/1927-15/8/1931) Hà Nội
19. Loa.(8/2/1934-2/1936) Hà Nội

* Bài đã công bố trong " The Emergence and Heritage of  Asian Women Intellectuals"  Prined in Bangkok, Thailand, ISBN 978-616-551-8949