November 27, 2018

Mabel Lee Memorial Post Office Dedication Ceremony

Mabel Lee Memorial Post Office Dedication Ceremony


On July 24, 2018, legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, of New York’s 7th District, was signed as Public Law No: 115-212 by President Donald J Trump, to designate the Chinatown Post Office as the “Mabel Lee Memorial Post Office.”


Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7)
American Legion 1291
Commander Kenneth Wong
Pastor Bayer Lee
Deacon Robert Gee
Deacon Gary Quan
Virginia Kee
Dominic Wong              
New York District Marketing Manager Allen Tanko
New York District Operations Programs Manager Ann Ko


Monday, December 3, 2018, 11:00am – 12:00pm


First Chinese Baptist Church
21 Pell Street
New York, NY 10013

(From USNPS)

Mabel Lee was born in Guangzhou (Canton), not far from Hong Kong in China in 1896 and the Lee family settled in New York City in 1905. By the time she was 16, Mabel Lee was a known figure in New York’s suffrage movement.

In 1912 Lee, rode on horseback and helped lead a New York City suffragist’s parade of ten thousand people to advocate for women’s voting rights. The extension of democracy, through voting, and “equality of opportunities to women” was, she stated, the hallmarks of true feminism.

Women won the right to vote in New York State in 1917. In 1920, the 19th Amendment gave women throughout the country the right to vote. But not all women in the US benefitted. Chinese women, like Mabel Lee, could not vote until 1943. This was because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a Federal law in place from 1882 to 1943. The Chinese Exclusion Act limited Chinese immigration and prevented Chinese immigrants from becoming citizens. Without US citizenship, Mabel Lee could not vote. Yet, she and other Chinese suffragists advocated for women’s voting rights, even though they did not benefit from the legislation. 

After graduating from Barnard College, Lee got a PhD in economics at Columbia University. She was the first Chinese woman to do so. In 1921, Lee published her research as a book called The Economic History of China.

She took over the role as director of the First Chinese Baptist Church of New York City, after her father died in 1924. Later she founded the Chinese Christian Center which served as a community center. It offered vocational and English classes, a health clinic, and a kindergarten. Lee never married and devoted her life to the Chinese community.

Mabel Lee died in 1966. It’s unclear if Mabel Lee ever became a US citizen or if she ever voted in the United States.

Congresswoman Velázquez said, “At a time when women were widely expected to spend a life in the home, Lee shattered one glass-ceiling after another. From speaking out in the classroom to organizing Chinese-American women to secure the right to vote, Lee’s bold vision for Chinatown is very much alive in our community today.”   



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