Mamie Tape Fights to Go to School

Mamie Tape Fights to Go to School
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
May 14, 2024
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Meet Mamie Tape, 8-year-old Chinese American changemaker who fought for the right to go to school in San Francisco in the 1880s. Follow Mamie's brave steps and discover the poignant history of her California Supreme Court case Tape v. Hurley.

Mamie’s mom always reminded her a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So when Mamie wanted to go to school, even though Chinese children weren’t allowed, she took her first step and showed up anyway. When she was turned away at the schoolhouse door, she and her parents took another step: they sued the San Francisco school board…and won! Their case Tape v. Hurley made its way up to the California Supreme Court, which ruled that children of Chinese heritage had the right to a free public school education. But even then, Mamie’s fight wasn’t over.

Mamie Tape Fights to go to School is the story of one young changemaker’s brave steps on the long journey to end school segregation in California. It began with a single step.

Editor review

1 review
Reading, Writing, and Racism
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
In 1884, Mamie Tape's parents attempted to enroll her at the Spring Valley Primary School near her home in San Francisco California. Mamie had played with the children in her neighborhood, but was denied admission to the school because of the anti-Chinese sentiments at the time. These had a long history; before Mamie's time, there had been a school for Chinese students in a church basement, but it had since been shut down. Mamie's parents filed a lawsuit, and the family took on a long fight in Tape vs. Hurley to try to finally allow students of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds to have equal access to education. Time and again, their efforts didn't meet the desired results. Mamie was finally able to attend the San Francisco School District 's separate Chinese Primary School; the "Chinese School" was later renamed the "Oriental School". It wasn't until much later that laws were changed to give better access to education to all students.

Good Points
Huahn frames the Tapes' fight in the philosophy of Laozi's proverb "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step", and this refrain is a unifying one to show how long the struggle was. There are plenty of details about the history of education in California, and the horrible treatment of people of Asian descent. There is a very good bibliography as well as some notes on the research Huahn did, and interviews she conducted with some of Tape's descendants.

Surprisingly, the Spring Valley School is still in operation after 170 years, operating out of a building opened after the 1906 earthquake and fire. Seeing a modern day view of this setting will be a surprise after seeing the rural setting in Chan's realistic illustrations!

Education should never be taken for granted, and many underserved populations have had to go through incredible fights to have access to something many people claim to not even enjoy! THis should be required reading for anyone interested in educational equality, along with Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Tonatiuh, The Story of Ruby Bridges by Coles, and Jordan-Fenton's When I Was Eight. The Tape family's struggle is also mentioned (complete with some period photographs) in Lee and Soontornvat's Made in Asian America: A History for Young People for readers who want more information.
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