In May 1903, Dr. Yamei Kin (also known as Jin Yunmei) came to Evanston to speak at the Guild rooms of Northwestern University’s Lunt library. Her address was titled: “Ojosan and her Accomplishments.” Her remarks were “illustrated by means of an exhibition of native Chinese ornaments.” (“At the Corner of Dempster,” The Evanston Index, May 2, 1903.)
Kin returned to Evanston a few months later where, in the club rooms of the YMCA, she gave cooking lessons to Evanston women. The class was organized by the Woman’s Club of Evanston and billed as an indication that “the chop suey fad is about to descend upon Evanston and society.” Indeed, around this time, “chop suey” had become popular in the U.S.
The next month, in October 1903, Kin lectured at the Woman’s Club of Evanston. (“Chinese Luncheon Planned,” Evanston Index, October 17, 1903.) “A breath from the Orient will sweep over the city a week from next Thursday when the long-expected Chinese luncheon planned by members of the woman’s club will be given,” the Evanston Index reported. “Chinese cookery served by ladies in Chinese costumes and a lecture by a Chinese lecturer the indications now point to a large attendance and an enthusiastic reception of the novelties in store. Doctor Yamei Kin the famous Chinese lecturer will deliver her lecture on Chinese cookery, exhibiting interesting specimens of Chinese food, cooked and uncooked. After the lecture, she will serve Chinese afternoon tea, assisted by some of the ladies in native Chinese costumes.”
Evanston appeared fascinated and delighted by this amazing woman who lectured, taught, and brought her insights to the city. At the time, however, they didn’t know just what an amazing experience they were being offered.
In 2018, Kin’s obituary appeared in the New York Times as a part of its “Overlooked” series, which adds “the stories of remarkable people whose deaths went unreported in The Times.”
Kin was remarkable for many reasons: In 1885 she became the first Chinese woman to earn a medical degree in the U.S.; She attended the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary, founded by Elizabeth Blackwell, and graduated at the top of her class. She later ran a medical school and founded a nursing school in China; she continued to study medicine and nutrition and she lectured widely in the U.S.; she was also an unsung s/hero of American food, agriculture, and science. During World War I, she was hired by the United States Department of Agriculture where she worked to introduce the soybean into the American diet.
Her son, Alexander Amador Eca da Silver, served in the U.S. Army during the war and was killed in combat in France in September 1918. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Kin was born in Ningpo, China (now called Ningbo). After her parents died in a cholera epidemic she was adopted by two Americans, Divie Bethune and Juana McCartee, who were missionaries in China and later in Japan. Kin first came to the U.S. as a young girl and then went overseas with her parents during their missionary work. She moved with her parents to New York when she was a teenager. After high school, she enrolled in the Women’s Medical College and went on to enjoy a distinguished career.
Although Kin lived in the U.S. for most of her life and was raised by American adoptive parents, she was barred from being granted U.S. citizenship as a result of the anti-Asian legislation in the U.S. (At one point she wrote to President Teddy Roosevelt and asked for his assistance in helping her become a citizen; he declined.) Learn more about Dr. Yamei Kin: https://www.soyinfocenter.com/books/192
Ningpo, a treat port, in Chekiang Province, China
March 4, 1934 in Peiping, China