'An Anglo-Chinese Marriage: An English Girl and a Mandarin's Son' © National Library of New Zealand (1/2)
'Mixed Blood and Ancestry' Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library (2/2)
In December 1904 the marriage took place in Marylebone, London between Nina Alberta Tomalin-Potts, of Norwood, London, and Yung Hsi Hsiao, a young Chinese student.
The Daily Mirror spoke of ‘this union of a pretty English girl with the son of a great Chinese mandarin…and one of the ablest of the brilliant band of students who represent young China in London’. It was the exceptionalism and novelty of such unions outside the working-classes that made them newsworthy; the marriage was extensively reported in the international press, including the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, three newspapers in New Zealand, one in Australia, and one in the United States - The Argonaut, a San Francisco-based publication.
In stark contrast to its more typical derogatory approach to interracial relationships between working class women and Chinese men, such as those that occurred in London’s Limehouse, the British press focused on the romanticism of the middle-class marriage. In their reports, there was little – if any – of their customary sentiments towards Anglo-Chinese relationships, which usually tended to follow the proclamations of the recently deceased British philosopher and sociologist Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) who denounced unions between Europeans and ‘the yellow races’ as ‘a great sociological disaster’.
The Argonaut, however, took a different line to the British press, upholding Spencer’s stance on such relationships: ‘Miss Tomalin-Potts may think it very romantic to wed a slant-eyed youth whose language is so peculiar as to make his endearments sound like a kettle falling down a winding stair. Her mamma may fancy that she has attained an unique prestige in uniting her daughter to a man whose pedigree, if translated, would mean nothing to us; but when a yellow baby comes, that infant will be just a Eurasian, a mongrel, a creature with the weaknesses of two races and the strength of neither’. At this time, anti-miscegenation laws in the USA banned Asians from marrying whites in at least a dozen states (including California). No such laws existed in Britain; the Hsiaos honeymooned in Bournemouth and a daughter, Murial Olive Hsiao, was born in 1907.
This union of a pretty English girl with the son of a great Chinese mandarin…and one of the ablest of the brilliant band of students who represent young China in London.