Several weeks ago, I have got a chance to visit Vietnam Women’s Museum for a better understanding of the roles of Vietnamese women in daily life throughout generations. The term “Men build the house and women make it home” means that men are breadwinners who take charge of earning money and shoulder financial responsibilities in the family, while women are accountable for taking care of children, preparing meals for the family. However, Vietnamese women have to take more responsibilities than those. Vietnamese women had to live by the ‘four virtues’: hard work, beauty, refined speech, and excellent conduct. Besides, in addition to being a wife, a mother of the children they are an insufficient military source in wars against invaders, especially through the two fights against the French and American colonialism.
Vietnam Women’s Museum is located on Ly Thuong Kiet Street, 500m from the Old Quarters. It was established in 1987 and run by the Vietnam Women’s Union. The museum preserves and displays tangible and intangible cultural heritages of Vietnamese women as well as reflecting Vietnamese women’s contributions to history and society. Since being publicly opened in 1995, it has held a variety of successful exhibitions and welcomed millions of visitors from different countries.
The museum has four floors with three main sections: Women in Family, Women in History and Women’s Fashion. In the museum’s lobby on the first floor, there is a big statue of a Vietnamese mother carrying her son on shoulders. This statue is named “Mother of Vietnam”, which is the symbol of the museum. She seems to be trying to protect her child from difficulties and dangers. This statue won the first prize in a sculpture competition organized by the Museum and the Fine Arts Association of Ho Chi Minh City in 1995 as it shows the beauty and strength of Vietnamese women. Looking up to the ceiling, there are colorful conical leaf hats that are the symbol of Vietnamese women.
The second floor is devoted to the image of women in the family, featuring different topics: marriage, childbirth and family life from wedding ceremonies, wedding costumes for women of all regions to the local rituals and customs related to women. The 3rd floor reflects Vietnamese women in history and their contributions and sacrifices for national independence. The top floor shows women’s traditional costumes throughout history from different ethnic minority groups in Vietnam. These costumes reflect the skill and sophistication of Vietnamese women in dressing. What impressed me most is the image of women in history. The Women in History section shows Vietnamese women from 1930-1954, Southern and then Northern Women from 1954-1975, Unification, Vietnam’s Heroic Mothers and Portraits of Contemporary Women. The exhibition not only focuses on introducing the role and participation of generations of Vietnamese women in the nation’s resistance wars against foreign invaders but also refers to all aspects of everyday life of women in war: the stories of life, their contributions and victories and their sacrifices for national independence. Besides, the image of women in history with good qualities and bravery is shown through short films.
There are some representatives of female icons in Vietnam through the centuries such as Triệu Thị Trinh, Bùi Thị Xuân, Nguyên Phi Ỷ Lan,… Needless to say, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi are the very first females that stood up against the domination of the North (Han Dynasty) over Vietnam in 40 AD and took control of Vietnam for three years. They witnessed how cruel the North had been treating their people and they also are daughters of a general, so they were able to practice and improve their fighting skills since a very young age. Their victory marked the very first independent of the North of Vietnam. That lead to the important role of women in the Vietnam War since millions of Vietnamese women fought against the French in the 1950s and the United States in the 1960s and 70s. In the Vietnam War more than half of the region commanders were women. Some Vietnamese women have held high positions of authority such as Nguyễn Thị Bình – a Vietnamese communist leader who negotiated at the Paris Peace Conference. In the period from 1930-1954: since the end of the 19th century, many anti-colonial movements ended in failure.
Founded in 1930, the Vietnam Communist Party led the battle for independence. Women played a significant role in this battle and created different organizations such as the Women’s Association for Liberation, Women’s Association for Democracy and Vietnam’s Women Union. They fought against colonial and feudal forces, demanding socio-economic and democratic rights. In 1945, they participated in the uprising against the local power, contributing to the August Revolution. In 1946, during the re-invasion of Vietnam by the French, the entire nation joined the resistance. It encouraged women to work and actively resist the French pressure by engaging in battles and assisting the construction of the country. Many of them took part in the war and ensured supplies for armed forces. They contribute greatly to the victory against colonial rule.