education will open the doors to many things.: Becoming Minnesotan

Mai Neng Moua, Open Book, downtown Minneapolis, November 29, 2008.
  • Name - Mai Neng Moua
  • Age at interview - 25
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 12.01.1999
  • Sua Vu Yang working as an interpreter in Ramsey County Hospital, 1980s.
    Hmong students at Lao Family Community Center, St. Paul, 1981-1982.

    Education, Gender Roles, Hmong

    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Opportunities in America: What kind of opportunities does this person see in America that he/she did not have in the homeland?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    The Hmong lived mostly in rural areas of Laos so education was not widely available. If it was, often only the boys were sent to school because the girls were needed to help at home.  This was especially true after Hmong men began being recruited to fight with the American soldiers in the “Secret War” in Laos.  In traditional Hmong society, sons were more highly valued than daughters because they would stay in the same clan and were thus given better opportunities.  Even in the refugee camps there was not adequate schooling for all children, and girls often had to attend to younger siblings.  In the United States, all children are mandated by law to attend school through age 18, so this has opened a lot of doors for girls who might not have had the opportunity to attend school in their homelands in southeast Asia.

    To learn more about Hmong history and culture, visit our Hmong Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Mai Neng Moua 1
    1:4 Minutes | 1.02Mb


    Note: Original interview was conducted in Hmong.  Excerpt is read in English by MayKao Hang.

    Narrator: Mai Neng Moua (MNM)

    Interviewer: Kim Yang (KY)

    KY:  Do you believe that living in America is good for Hmong women and why do you think it's good?

    MNM:  Yes, I believe it is a good thing because there are many things we can do in this country that we could not do in Thailand and Laos. One of the opportunities is education. Even the old can go to school. The youth can go to school, women can go to school, so it’s like my mother says, “The opportunity is open to everyone.” So that’s a good thing.

    education will open the doors to many things. If you have an education, you’ll have a good job. You will be able to talk to those who are in your field; you will be able to talk the same lingo or jargon. You will be able to go talk with Americans because you will know their language, not only language but different topics, too.

    In addition, women can be and have jobs that they cannot in Thailand. They can, right now, be a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, a nurse. There are many opportunities open to women. For Hmong men, maybe that’s something they don’t like or want, but for Hmong women, that’s an excellent thing. And maybe this will give women a little bit more peace.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  A course of study or an area of knowledge or practice.


    Noun:  Language characteristic of a particular group.


    Noun:  Language, especially language peculiar to a particular group or region.


    Noun:  A chance for advancement, progress, or profit.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 481