Foot Emancipation Society
Foot Emancipation Society (Chinese: 不缠足会), or Anti-footbinding Society (Chinese: 戒缠足会), was a civil organization which opposed foot binding in the late Qing Dynasty. It was impacted by Hundred Days' Reform (戊戌变法) of 1898, and this organization advanced the feminist movement in China.
Foot binding was a custom practiced on young girls and women for approximately one thousand years in China, beginning in the 10th century. In Chinese society, bound feet were considered beautiful and erotic. The practice also limited women's mobility and was sometimes seen as a mark of status (the woman did not have to work) or a mark of male ownership (the woman's mobility was limited and she was intensely dependent on the males in her household).
After the Opium Wars, China signed the "Treaty of Nanking" with Britain, which forced the Qing government to open the five ports. More Christians came to China and began to oppose foot binding, because they thought it was discriminatory against females. In 1875, a Guangzhou pastor organized a "anti-foot-binding organization", and more than 80 people attended, despite the fact that these kinds of activities had very limited influence.
Hundred Days' Reform of 1898 stimulated many social reform activities. The widest-ranging movement was the "anti-footbinding movement," which generated the founding of "Foot Emancipation Society".
In 1887, Kang Youwei (康有为) and Qu Eliang established the "Foot Emancipation Society" in Nanhai, Guangdong; however, it was abandoned due to of public opposition. In 1885, Kang Youwei and his brother Kang Guangrou (康广仁) established "Canton Foot Emancipation Society". He asked his daughters Kang Tongwei, Kang Tongbi to release their feet as examples. This movement began to impact the culture in Guangdong. In late 1896, Wu Xinggang (吴性刚) founded the "Anti-Footbinding Society" in Hunan province.
After 1897, the anti-footbinding movement developed rapidly. In Shunde District, Guangdong, more than hundred people attended the anti-footbinding movement. Liang Qichao (梁启超) wrote an article called "Report of Anti-footbinding" (《戒缠足会叙》). On June 30, the Shanghai Foot Emancipation Society was established. It impacted the related organizations in Fuzhou, Tianjing, and Macau. In 1897, Chen Baoyi (陈保彝) announced the establishment of the Foot Emancipation Society in Changsha. The next year, Tan Sitong (谭嗣同) and Tang Caichang (唐才常) began the Hunan Foot Emancipation Society.
These activities may have been restricted by the districts during this period. The movement was also limited to the more knowledgeable citizens. After the failure of Wuxu Reform, the anti-foot binding movement ended and foot binding continued to be widely practiced.
During the Gengzi Reform (清末新政, 庚子新政), anti-footbinding activities resumed. In 1902, Empress Dowager Cixi announced a ban on foot-binding to appease foreigners, but it was rescinded a short time later. In 1905, Natural Feet Society (天足会) was established and largely impacted this movement. This movement gained the support of governors. Sichuan Governor Cen Chunxuan (岑春煊) printed 50,000 books in support of the movement; Zhili Governor Cen Chunxuan (袁世凯), Huguang Governor Duanfang (端方) also wrote anti-footbinding articles. In 1904, foot binding was outlawed in many provinces, and some governmental officers asked their wives or daughters to release their bound feet.
In 1912, after the fall of the Qing Dynasty, the new Republic of China government banned foot binding. Women were told to unwrap their feet lest they be killed. Societies were founded to support the abolition of foot-binding, with contractual agreements made between families who would promise an infant son in marriage to an infant daughter who did not have bound feet. When the Communists took power in 1949, they were able to enforce a strict prohibition on foot-binding, including in isolated areas deep in the countryside where the Nationalist prohibition had been ignored. The prohibition on foot-binding remains in effect today.
- Grady, Helen. "Regulation of Marriage and the Anti-Footbinding Society". Retrieved June 1, 2011.
- "Marie Vento: One Thousand Years of Chinese Footbinding: Its Origins, Popularity and Demise". Term Paper/Core 9: Chinese Culture/ March 7, 1998. Retrieved June 1, 2011.