Lights and Shadows of a Macao Life: The Journal of Harriett Low, Travelling Spinster

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9780938106296: Lights and Shadows of a Macao Life: The Journal of Harriett Low, Travelling Spinster
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"Lights and Shadows of a Macao Life", the title chosen by Harriett Low for her journal, aptly describes the conflicting emotions of the first American woman to live in China. Making a rude transition from the tranquility of Salem, Massachusetts into a world of sampans and sedan chairs, women with bound feet and men with queues, the lively young American records a detailed portrait of her life in Macao from 1829-1834. The constricted lifestyle of foreign merchants' wives, forced by the Chinese to live in Macao while their husbands traded tea and opium in Canton; balls, operas and picnics; Chinese customs and Catholic processions; true friendship and false; romance or religion are all reflected in the pages of her journal. Throughout nine volumes, Harriett Low displays wit and courage as she metamorphoses from a socially naive girl into a mature, independent woman. "Lights and Shadows of a Macao Life" chronicles not only the impact of Western capitalism on a declining Chinese Empire but also the importance of money in affairs of the heart. Forced to reject her fiance because he lacked prospects, Harriett Low survives by immersing herslf in the literature and language she loves, as well as a re-examined Unitarian faith. Independent in outlook, she is an obvious antecedent of a contemporary American woman.

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About the Author:

Harriett Low Hillard (1809-1877), was the second child of eleven of Seth Low, a merchant in Salem, MA and his wife Mary Porter Low. At age 20, she accompanied her uncle and aunt, William Henry and Abigail Knapp Low, to China for 5 years to be her aunt's companion. Upon her return to the US after years of foreign travel and adventure, she found it hard to settle down. In 1836, she married John Hillard, a banker 4 years her junior, and moved to London. A relatively happy marriage in the beginning produced 5 girls and 3 boys including twins. Only the girls survived. Her husband was unsuccessful in business and in 1848, the family returned to the US bankrupt. The disgrace of bankruptcy and her husband's alcoholism caused an estrangement in the marriage. John Hillard died in 1859 and Harriett Low Hillard spent the rest of her life in Brooklyn, NY supported and surrounded by the Low family who recognized that she had conquered the vicissitudes of her life by her independent spirit and her faith in God.

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For the period and the place, there is nothing quite like it. -- Charles Weatherill, South China Morning Post, August 17, 2002

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