1925: The First Chinese Woman Student at MIT

Miss Lee Li Fu (Class of 1929, Electrical Engineering) was the first woman from China to attend MIT. A native of Hebei, Lee married MIT classmate and fellow-provincial, Kuan Tung (Class of 1927, Electrical Engineering).[1] In 1925, the Chinese Students’ Monthly ran this story on Lee:

"Pretty little Lee Li Fu has registered for electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has begun a long journey on the road, that will place the little Chinese lady on equal footing with her husband * * *" Thus reported the Boston papers. Some of the news editors were so enthusiastic about this piece of unexpected news that they became very much optimistic about New China. Mrs. Tung Kuan is perhaps the first Chinese girl student studying engineering in this country that we know of. And certainly it is epoch-making that she should choose "the toughest course" in the long noted "tough" institution. It is reported that Mrs. Kuan has special interest in electrical communications, and there is ample reason to believe that future broadcasting development in China will owe much to the "fair" experts. Mrs. Kuan has entered as a junior, while her husband is doing graduate work in M. I. T. She has been recently elected by the M. I. T. Chinese Students' Club as the chairman of the social committee, and she will preside in all the subsequent socials held by that club.

                                                                                                                                                                                       CSM 21.2, 1925, p 69


[1] Later, Lee Minghua (Wu) became the first woman to ever receive a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from MIT (1948). Jiaoyu zhi qiao: cong Qinghua dao Mashengligong (Bridge of Education: From Tsinghua to MIT), Hong Kong: Cosmos Point Limited, 2011, 239.