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Postcards from the Past

Compiled by Sindya N. Bhanoo Email Compiled by Sindya N. Bhanoo
May 2015
Postcards from the Past

Snapshots from Indian-American history

“Native Hindu” woman graduates from medical college in Pennsylvania

May 14, 1901 -

A newspaper article announces the upcoming graduation of Dora Chatterjee, the third “Native Hindu” woman to graduate from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.
The article describes her as the daughter of one of the two chief Princes of India, but notes that because her parents converted to Christianity her family was “lowered in rank in consequence.” After earning her M.D., Chatterjee worked as a medical missionary in her home city of Hoshiarpur and later moved to Rawalpindi with her husband, Mangat Rai.

 

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05_15_Postcard_Saund.jpg

 

 

Congressman Dalip Singh Saund with President John F. Kennedy

May 18, 1961 -

A photograph shows California Congressman Dalip Singh Saund (far left) with President John F. Kennedy at a Congressional Coffee Hour in the White House Blue Room, Washington, D.C.
Saund immigrated to the U.S. in 1920 to study at the University of California, Berkeley and earned a Ph.D. in Mathematics. Due to the 1923 U.S. Supreme Court decision barring South Asians from becoming American citizens, Saund and other members of the community struggled to find jobs despite their qualifications. Saund worked as a farm laborer in California’s Imperial Valley. After the passage of the Luce-Celler Act in 1946, allowing South Asians to naturalize, Saund became a U.S. citizen and continued his involvement in local politics. Saund won the Democratic seat in the House of Representatives in a closely contested election in 1956, making him the first Asian American to be elected to Congress.

 

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04_15_Postcard_Desai.jpg

 

 

 

Bhairavi Desai leads the New York Taxi Workers Alliance on a Strike

May 13, 1998 -

Bhairavi Desai, founder and executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance is interviewed by a Daily News reporter on Strike Day.
Desai started the organization in 1998 with an initial membership of 700 workers; the union has grown to represent 15,000 taxi drivers in New York City. Desai, an Indian American from New Jersey, organized the strike—the first taxi workers’ strike in 30 years—to demand economic rights, respect, dignity, and justice for all taxi drivers in New York City. About ninetyfour percent of the city’s taxi drivers are immigrants. An estimated 23 percent are from Bangladesh (which represents a recent large increase), 13 percent from Pakistan and 9 percent from India.

 


Sindya N. Bhanoo contributes to the Observatory column in the Science section of The New York Times. She is also a board member of South Asian American Digital Archive. This column’s material is from SAADA. https://www.saadigitalarchive.org/.



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