Scope and Content
Title: Nellie Wong papers
Identifier/Call Number: CEMA 14
UC Santa Barbara Library, Department of Special Collections
Language of Material:
11.0 linear feet
Date (inclusive): 1972-2013
Nellie Wong is a poet and activist for feminist and socialist causes based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is co-featured
in the documentary film,
Mitsuye and Nellie, Asian American Poets
(1982) and was featured in the film
Just Say It: A Revolution in the Making
(2004). Wong's awards include Woman of Words from the San Francisco Women's Foundation and her poem, "Sailing with Memories
of Li Hong," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2005. Two of her poems are permanently engraved in San Francisco Muni public
sites at Market and Sanchez Streets and at the Embarcadero. She has performed her work throughout the United States, and in
Cuba and China.
Language of Materials:
The collection is in English.
A Chinese-American poet and union activist, Nellie Wong was born and raised in the Oakland Chinatown of the 1940's. After
the incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans to relocation camps during World War II, Wong worked in her family's
great China Restaurant in Oakland's Chinatown. Later, she traveled across the Bay to pursue studies in creative writing at
San Francisco State University. Meanwhile, Wong worked at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation as a secretary from 1964-82. Wong
began writing poetry in the early 1970's. Wong is one of the founding members of Unbound Feet, a writing collective of Chinese-American
women who read together and lectured at universities throughout California, in the late 1970's. Wong's poems deal with themes
involving Asian Americans, especially the sense of leaving "home" behind. "I care about the roots of Asian-American culture
and how and why they came here," says Wong, referring to the long history of Asians' immigration to America. "It's something
every Asian family has experienced."
In discussing her work, Wong states, "A lot of my poems come from the workplace; that's where I've experienced a great deal
of sexism and racism." Wong has published three collections of poetry: Death of Long Steam Lady (1986), and Dreams in Harrison
Railroad Park (1977) and Stolen Moments (1997). Her poem, "Song of Farewell", was installed in 1996 on an F-Line Muni platform
in the middle of the Embarcadero roadway near Greenwich Street. The poem, chosen by the San Francisco Arts Commission, is
part of the Waterfront Transportation Project Historic and Interpretive Signage Program along San Francisco's North Embarcadero.
Based on the thoughts and feelings of a man leaving China and the wife he is leaving behind in the first years of the 20th
century, "Song of Farewell" is about separation, departure, and ultimately death, says Wong. One of her articles, entitled,
“Asian American Women and politics” recently appeared in Asian American anthology entitled, Legacy to Liberation: politics
and culture of revolutionary asian pacific america (2000). In 1983, Wong served as a delegate for the first US Women Writers
Tour to China. She has also been a visiting professor in women's studies at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis (1985).
Wong is a member of Poets & Writers, NY; Radical Women, The Freedom Socialist Party; the National Asian American Telecommunications
Association; and the University Professional & Technical Employees, and is a delegate to the San Francisco Central Labor Council.
In 1989 she was honored by the San Francisco Women's Foundation with the Women of Words award. Wong prides herself on her
feminist and socialist viewpoints. "The more I see some people fighting back, the more I see everyone acquiring the strength
to fight back," says Wong. "Otherwise I'd just shut my door and say, 'good-bye world.' But that's not me."
Wong, together with Mitsuye Yamada, was the subject of a 1981 film "Mitsuye & Nellie, Asian American Poets," produced by Light-Saraf
Productions about the first-generation of Chinese and Japanese wives and daughters allowed into America by U.S. immigration
constraints. Nellie Wong's papers were donated to CEMA in June 1998.
Scope and Content
The Nellie Wong Papers consist of 35 boxes of personal and professional materials generated by Wong during the period 1972-2013.
The bulk of the collection contains Wong’s writings, both prose and poetry (including manuscripts and numerous drafts), correspondence,
publicity and professional files. Also included are several folders of correspondence from fellow writers, friends, students,
and the public. The second largest component of the collection are the subject files, which include numerous folders on specific
individuals, conferences, and subjects. Altogether the Nellie Wong Papers provide much insight into Wong’s political, creative
and social life as an Asian American.
Processed by CEMA staff, December 20, 2000. Revised by CEMA staff, 2002. Revised by Suzanne Im, 2013.
Donated by Nellie Wong, July 1998.
[Identification of Item], Nellie Wong papers, CEMA 14. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University
of California, Santa Barbara.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or
quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given
on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply
permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.
The collection is open for research.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
American poetry -- 20th century -- Manuscripts
Chinese American women -- Poetry
Chinese Americans -- Poetry
Chinese Americans -- Political activity
Minorities -- United States -- Social conditions
Minority women -- United States
Poets, American -- 20th century -- Correspondence