Who's the lady in the black & white shoes? | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Who's the lady in the black & white shoes?

And why did Harrison Forman give her special treatment?

Lady in the black and white shoes

She's in over twenty of the Harrison Forman's photos (see them here). There are other people that appear in several photos, but she's the only one we see photographed in several different places. Forman was a professional photographer, looking to sell his photos to newspapers. So what was newsworthy about this lady, on this day?

I've no idea who she is, or whether she was well-known enough for her activities to make the news. Famous or not, I'm guessing she was chosen as an example of an American being evacuated from Hong Kong, as most of the photos seem related to farewells.

We can see from the clothes she's wearing that all the photos are taken on the same day. Can we put them in some sort of order?

There are two photos of her outside the National City Bank of New York, which Moddsey says "stood on Queen's Rd Central between Ice House and Duddell Streets." I'll take a guess that these are the earliest photos taken that day.

Then there are two showing her walking out from a building, in the company of two men. Does anyone recognise the building? I wondered if it was a pier in TST, where she has just traveled over from Hong Kong island.

There are several of her and the two men riding in Rickshaws in front of the old KCR terminus building. Were they actually going anywhere in them, or just going for a short ride to have photos taken?

We see several photos of her in front of the gates to the Kowloon wharves. The two men are still there, and she's standing next to a large pile of what I assume is her luggage. One of the photos shows her next to a suitcase with an 'Amercan President Line' (APL) label clearly displayed. In the background of another we can see the APL ship 'President Coolidge' is tied up at the wharf.

So I think Forman is documenting the story of Americans being evacuated from Hong Kong. The President Coolidge made several journeys between America and Asia specifically to take evacuees home.

The last group of photos, show her saying goodbye to the two men, then climbing onto a small launch. These confuse me. Since we've seen the men in other photos, but here they are saying goodbye, these should be the last photos taken of her on that day.

But if she's going to travel on the President Coolidge, and we can see it tied up nearby, why doesn't she just walk onboard? Was it the custom then to take a launch from a convenient pier to the liner? Perhaps the wharves were just for cargo?

Can you help fill in any more of this story?


The sequence of photos is interesting. Which came first? Alot of conjecture here.

The photo of the lady leaving on the launch may not be the final sequence.

From this photo: http://gwulo.com/node/3365

it can be seen that the the APL tender/launch left a pier in Praya Central (Blake or Queen's?) for the boat with the lady on board perhaps to clear customs and immigration first on the boat itself or at Kowloon Wharf. It does not appear that the two men who have presented her with a present have travelled with her.

The appearance of the two men again over in Kowloon is also interesting as it appears that Forman may have travelled with them to meet up with the lady later and to wait for her luggage to arrive by cargo boat and coolie transport to the main gate at Kowloon Wharf. The rickshaw ride may have been to kill time and to enjoy a 'spin' around Kowloon Star Ferry.

Strangely, there does not appear to be any teary farewells in the photo sequence.

Moddsey, good catch to spot the launch in that photo. There's another photo showing it a bit further away, and a couple more taken at the same time [1, 2: note the same small sailing boats racing in the background], but they don't seem to add anything new to the story.

That really opens up the options.

I have wondered why Forman did not take any photos whilst he was on the Star Ferry. See 1940 restrictions on camera usage.

1940 Defence Regulations on Camera Usage

I hadn't caught the lack of photos from the star ferry - interesting.

A wire photo believed to have been taken by Forman dated 15 November 1940 at Kowloon Star Ferry. This photo is not part of the Harrison Forman collection.

1940s Kowloon Star Ferry - Harrison Forman








The back of the photo reads: "An American couple (centre) chatting with English friends before boarding the Hong Kong Ferry on the first leg of their long journey home. They were among the numerous Americans leaving China and Japan on the advice of the US State Department. Three liners were on the high seas bringing home US Nationals from the tense Orient."

Looks like the man on the right is hailing for a rickshaw ride in TST as seen in the rickshaw photos outside the KCR Terminus.

If the month in the posted photo is correct, the liner President Coolidge set sail from Hong Kong to San Francisco on 3 November 1940 with 70 American evacuees onboard. The names of the evacuees appear in the Hong Kong Telegraph dated 11 November 1940.



That's a good find. I recently picked up a second-hand copy of Emily Hahn's China to me, which covers this time. Describing late 1941 she writes:

American service men were ordered to send their wives away and there was a weeping and wailing in all the pretty little houses where they had settled down.


Then the Chase and the National City banks sent out orders for the wives to be sent away. The Peak houses were hastily packed up, and there were tearful leave-takings, and the men went back on a bachelor basis.

In one of the HF photo sequence, the lady is seen buying a Hong Kong Telegraph newspaper outside the Kowloon Star Ferry. The newspaper seller is holding the daily headline news: "Italians take part in raids on London" and "Impassioned plea by HK evacuee."

A search of the newspapers in the HKPL archive confirms the date of the Kowloon sequence of photos to be Saturday, 26 October 1940. The impassioned pleas was made by Mrs. H. Kennedy-Skipton about her being forced to evacuate Hong Kong.

Two sailings of the American President Liners - The President Pierce on 29 October 1940  and President Coolidge on 3 November 1940

Good to have the date pinned down. And for a moment I thought we had a photo of Mrs H Kennedy-Skipton. But wartime accounts mention she had her daughters with her in Hong Kong, so I don't think she's our lady.

Regards, David

Actually I was trying to convey that the news headline was with reference to Mrs K-S. Sorry for the confusion.