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From a Refugee Camp to the Minnesota State Senate: A Case Study of a Hmong American Woman’s Challenge

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Author(s): Taeko Yoshikawa

Journal: Hmong Studies Journal
ISSN 1091-1774

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2007;
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Keywords: Hmong Americans | Asian American Studies | Ethnic Politics

ABSTRACT
This paper explores the contested nature of Hmong women’s traditional roles and the recent emergence of Hmong American women leaders by discussing Senator Mee Moua, who was elected to the Minnesota State Legislature in January 2002. She became the first HmongAmerican state legislator in the United States. The family and kinship system are the backbone of the Hmong community, around which Hmong culture is organized. The Hmong recognize kinship through the male line, and the household is the basic economic unit in the patriarchal Hmong social system. This study was intended to find out how Mee Moua perceives her identity in working with her constituents and the Hmong people in her community, why the patriarchal Hmong community in St. Paul supported Mee Moua’s campaign, and how sheearned the broad support of a diverse constituency in defeating a candidate that had been handpicked by St. Paul’s mayor. I argue that ethnic identity and the presentation of individuality as “Mee Moua” combined to make this Hmong American woman a successful bridge between two distinctive cultures.

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