Xiao Li

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Southern Illinois University

2019 to 2020
Research Fellow

"A New Woman”: Yamei Kin’s Contributions to Medicine and Women’s Rights in the U.S. and China, 1864-1934

My dissertation examines the career of Yamei Kin (1864-1934), the first Chinese woman to obtain a medical degree in the United States (1885), and challenges previous scholarship by arguing it was her belief in modern medicine rather than her Christian identity that motivated her. She spread modern medicine to Asians when people trusted herbal medicine and lived without modern hygiene. She emulated Elizabeth Blackwell by opening the medical profession to Chinese and Japanese women. During World War I, she headed the U.S. government’s research on soy food to overcome nationwide meat shortage, laying the foundation for later soy research which enabled widespread use of soy in the American diet. She also served as a cultural ambassador. Bringing Chinese, Japanese and English sources together, this is the first compete study of Yamei Kin on the pioneering role she played in the spread of modern medicine and women’s medical education.