Turmoil on the Eve of World War II


Davidson College Chambers Building Davidson, North Carolina

 “Davidson College’s Dean Rusk International Studies Program
invites the public to a lecture ‘Mothers and Daughters From Wartime China to the American Dream.’
       “Davidson residents Paula (Pederson) Palmer and Anna Pai will discuss their memoirs, which focus on their mother-daughter relationships tested by mid-20th century turmoil in the U.S. and China.  Both authors lived in China on the eve of World War II, and spent the post-war period in the U.S.  Their talk will touch on history, China, memoir-writing and their fascinating, frustrating mothers.”  April 4, 2017
       Our stories were so different! Anna Pai’s mother, daughter of a Manchurian Warlord, left China where she had lived as a virtual princess. When the Japanese invaded Manchuria, they executed Anna’s grandfather. Anna’s mother  left China in 1939 for the U.S. and brought her family. At the time, Anna was 3 years old. Forced to try and become a U.S. housewife, Anna’s mother never learned to speak English and retreated into isolation when she found the adjustment impossible.
       Paula’s mother married Seattle’s Hans Pederson, Paula’s father. After he died, she remarried and moved on to live a pre-war expat luxury life in China. Returning to America, the luxuries ended as she lost her servants and coped with rationing coupons for gas, meat, and butter.  No stranger to earlier privation, she adjusted, but her brief years in the Far East remained as the highlight of her life. As Paula conducted her research on Hans Pederson, she also learned the hidden story of her mother, Doris Huchulak.

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