Maine Historical Society

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On-Demand Programs

From Chinese Laundress to Mother of the Year: Bringing the Story of Toy Len Goon Beyond the Model Minority Myth
BEGIN AGAIN SERIES: A Talk with Dr. Andrea Louie

Recorded on June 17, 2021

In 1952, Toy Len Goon, a modest widow and mother of eight, was selected as Maine Mother of the Year, and then for the national title, by the J.C. Penney Golden Rule Foundation. An immigrant from China, she came to the U.S. in 1921 as the wife of Dogan Goon, a WWI veteran and laundryman. After Dogan became disabled and unable to work, passing away in 1941, she and her children ran the laundry and household, located at 615 Forest Ave in Portland, ME. However, there is much of Toy Len Goon's story that was not told by the media coverage celebrating her honor. As one of Toy Len Goon’s grandchildren, but also a cultural anthropologist, Dr. Andrea Louie places her story within a fuller context in the hopes of doing justice to her legacy as not only a mother, but a woman who broke out of a number of traditional roles, while also remaining filial to relatives back in China.