First Published Asian-American Novelist, and Poet: Diana Chang

Meet the face of our newest alumnae pin, Diana Chang ’49. To pick up a pin, stop by the Barnard Library!

Rediscovering the Self


Diana Chang beside a Marc Chagall lithograph she purchased in Paris.
From the Barnard Alumnae Monthly, October/November 1951, courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Diana Chang was born in New York City to a Chinese father and a mother of Chinese and Irish descent. Soon after, her family moved to China, where Chang spent the majority of her childhood and adolescence. She lived in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during World War II and attended the Shanghai American School before matriculating at St. John’s University, Shanghai in 1941. After one year, she left St. John’s to take a position as an editorial and feature writer at the English-language Shanghai Evening Post in 1943, on the recommendation of a friend who knew she was interested in writing. Chang later described her weekly piece in the paper as “chatty, personal, and feminine.” She resigned from the paper after eight months for “political reasons,” which she explained as follows in a letter to the author: “I resigned my ‘position’ … because of the Japanese supervision. No Japanese were in the office, so at first—in my naïveté (I was 17 or 18 at the time)—I thought the paper was run by the three or four men I took to be white Protestants engaged in putting out the newspaper.” Her family later returned to New York City, where she entered Barnard College in the fall of 1946 as a transfer to the class of 1949.

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Kang Tung Pih, Class of 1909

Note: This is part of a series of profiles about Barnard alumnae. These profiles were originally posted on the old Barnard Archives website.   

Noble Daughter, Global Activist


Kang Tung Pih, Class of 1909
From the 1909 Mortarboard , courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Today, Barnard College, like many American colleges and universities, prides itself on its many international students. In the fall of 2007, it boasted an undergraduate population that represented 45 foreign countries. But before World War I, there was hardly a foreign student to be found on the Barnard campus.

During the academic year 1907-08, for instance, Acting Dean William T. Brewster reported that four foreign students were registered at Barnard: one from England, one from Germany, one from Russia, and one from China. While it is not certain that these were the first four international students at Barnard, it is virtually certain that the fourth student, Kang Tung Pih (Pinyin: Kang Tongbi) was the first Asian student to study here. She was also the beloved second daughter of the late 19th- and early 20th-century Chinese political reformist Kang Youwei. The records concerning Miss Kang in the Barnard College Archives, though scant, reveal fascinating details about her obscure yet intriguing life. Continue reading