The life of Mavis Yen remembered

The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday (18 October 2008) carried an obituary for Mavis Yen (1916–2008).

Born in Perth to a Chinese father and white Australian mother, Mavis spent her early childhood in Australia before her father took the family to China in 1925. After sojourns back in Australia in the 1930s and mid-1940s, Mavis settled in China in 1946. There she worked for the Xinhua news agency and then the Number 2 Foreign Languages Institute until her retirement. She married Jeffrey Yen in 1950.

Mavis Yen was imprisoned for six months during the Cultural Revolution, with a further two years spent on a farm. This experience convinced her that she should return to Australia, which she and her daughter did in 1981. She gained degrees from the Australian National University and worked on an (unpublished) history of Chinese immigration to 19th century Australia.

One comment

  1. Brad Powe says:

    I re-read an old letter from the late Mavis Yen recently (she boarded with my great-grandparents in Forest Lodge/Glebe in the late 1930s, after my adoptive grand uncle Arthur Janne [Cheng] Chun Wah returned to China after graduating from Sydney Uni).

    Mavis pointed out that I, like her, was a member of the extended Gok (Gwok/Kwok) clan through my great-grandmother Lily May Fine nee [Gwok] Ah Poo.

    Anyway, I then re-read the 2008 obituary for Mavis (published in the Sydney Morning Herald), which referred to her unfinished book about the mid-20th Century Chinese familes of Sydney.

    Does anyone know what happened to the manuscript, and/or Mavis’ daughter Siaoman, or even Mavis’ siblings (there was a sister out at Richmond NSW)?

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