National Geographic : 1993 Nov
are planned, with memberships running as high as $150,000. Economic success and political liberaliza tion have quickened the pace of social change. More than a thousand special-interest groups have sprung up over the past few years, and their members are making demands they never would have dared to a decade ago. NE OF THE MOST far-reaching movements may be a challenge by Taiwan feminists to the tra ditional, submissive role of the Chinese wife. Among the first of many women's self-help groups was the Warm Life Association for Women. Founded in 1984, the group's name derives from a Tang dynasty poem that celebrates life's middle years-the time, Warm Life's founder, Shih Chi-ching, explained, "when women are most likely to seek a divorce." Ms. Shih, a high school teacher turned housewife, did just that. At age 36 she discov ered that her husband had become involved with another woman. "I left him, but I couldn't divorce," Shih told me. "Under Tai wan law, the husband took everything: chil dren, property, money, even money a wife may have brought to the marriage. There were no jobs, no openings in the schools." Shih eventually found work translating American best-sellers into Chinese. "Five years after my separation, I translated Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique," she said. That did it. Shih filed for divorce, even though she knew she would lose her son and her belongings, according to the law. Then she founded Warm Life so she could "help women who were afraid of divorce, just as I was. It wasn't easy. At first I was facing 2,500 years of Chinese tradition all by myself." But the response was overwhelming. Today, Warm Life counseling offices are scat tered throughout the island, and the govern ment is helping cover the costs. And Shih regained custody of her 16-year-old son. "Women now have access to higher education and job opportunities," Shih said. "And they don't intend to suffer any more." It took the Cold War and strong government Noxious air brings tears to Chen Wang-to in her home near Linyuan, in the indus trial heart of Taiwan. Chen's doctor believes factory emissions caused her liver cancer. She died in June. In Taipei, where cars and motorcycles create much of the smog that smothers the capital (right), the government directs a top-priority cam paign-initiated by citizens-to protect the environment.
1993 Nov 30