APA Heritage Month: 10 Amazing Asian Women

BlogHer Original Post

May is Asian Pacific Heritage Month, and in honor of the occasion, we are spotlighting ten Asian American women you should know. Check out the slideshow!

Anna May Wong

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Often known for the Dragon Lady characters she played in Hollywood’s silent film era, Anna May Wong was a pioneer for Asian Americans in entertainment. But a new PBS documentary “Anna May Wong: In Her Own Words” shows Wong as a pioneering artist at a time when racism and violence against Chinese immigrants was rampant.

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Sen. Mazie Hirono

Image Credit: Office of Sen. Mazie Hirono

In January 2013, Mazie Hirono (D-HI) became the first Asian American woman sworn in to the U.S. Senate. This spring, she has led the charge to ensure that concerns of immigrant women are reflected in the bipartisan immigration reform bill which just cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee and is headed to the Senate floor next month.

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Lynn Chen

Image Credit: Sony Pictures

Actress Lynn Chen is best known for her breakout role in the 2004 movie Saving Face, in which she plays a Vivian, a young lesbian dating a woman who is struggling to come out to her Chinese immigrant mother. Chen is also an active blogger –- visit her sites The Actor’s Diet and Thick Dumpling Skin (which she co-runs with Lisa Lee). She is a frequent speaker on issues of body image and eating disorders.

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Grace Lee Boggs

Image Credit: Kyle Mc Donald, via Flickr

98-year old Grace Lee Boggs has been a civil rights and feminist activist for 70 years, including participation in the Black Panther Movement in the 1960s with her husband, James Boggs. The daughter of Chinese restaurant owners will be featured in a documentary “American Revolutionary” which will be released this June.

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Mindy Kaling

May 13, 2013 - New York, NY, USA - Mindy Kaling attending the FOX 2103 Programming Presentation Post-Party at Wollman Rink in Central Park on May 13, 2013 in New York City (Credit Image: © Kristin Callahan/Ace Pictures/ZUMAPRESS.com)

What’s not to love about everyone’s favorite TV doctor? I love that a dark-skinned, real-sized South Asian woman could not only write and act on NBC’s hit The Office -- but can star in and co-produce her own show, The Mindy Project, on Fox. She also keeps a blog The Concerns of Mindy Kaling.

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Helen Zia

Image Credit: © Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com

Where would the labor, feminist, and Asian American activism worlds be without Helen Zia? The former editor of Ms. Magazine once quite medical school to work on the automobile assembly lines in Detroit, and in 2010 testified in the 2010 trial for California’s Prop 8.

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Kristi Yamaguchi

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Kristi Yamaguchi won America’s hearts when she won the gold for women’s figure skating at the 1992 Olympics. But she hasn’t retired into obscurity. Besides touring with “Stars on Ice” and appearing on “Dancing with the Stars” and being impossibly fit, Yamaguchi also runs the Always Dream Foundation promoting childhood literacy and during the 2012 campaign season found herself in the limelight for her TV spot in support of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

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Kiran Ahuja

Since 2009, Kiran Ahuja has been the Executive Director of White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Ahuja heads up the Obama administrations outreach to Asian Americans and works with all the federal agencies to raise awareness of the concerns of Asian Pacific Americans.

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Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo was one of the keynote speakers at BlogHer ’11. After immigrating from India in 1974, she earned a Master’s Degree from Yale School of Management and went on to a nearly 20 year career at PepsiCo. Nooyi has been named one of the most powerful women in business by Fortune and Forbes magazines.

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Mee Moua

Credit Image: © Manny Crisostomo/Sacramento Bee/ZUMAPRESS.com

Moua’s family was among the Hmong refugees who fled to the United States in the late 1970s. She served in the Minnesota State Senate from 2002-10 and is now the President of the Asian American Justice Center. A video of Moua’s Senate testimony passionately calling out the need for family reunification and respect for women’s rights went viral this spring. Check it out on Think Progress.

Have a favorite Asian American role model? Tell us in the comments!


News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs about raising an Asian mixed-race family at HapaMama.

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