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Ms. Mona Yi 伊夢蘭

There are many women from whom I draw inspiration and get aspirations, but there is one in particular that’s close to my heart. Her strength didn’t just inspire and motivate me; it instilled something deep within me.

It’s 1950s, Taiwan. In the circle of photojournalists in Taipei at this time, there is only one woman, Ms. Mona Yi 伊夢蘭. She is young, fierce, and stylishly bold. Once, when she was interviewing President Chiang Kai-shek during the inspection of a military exercise, Ms. Mona Yi stood out in her big pink skirt and big sunglasses (one of her trademark looks). Running in between a few thousand participants while attempting to capture the story of the day, she was always at the center of the action, be it dignitaries or movie stars that landed at the Songshan Airport, Taipei.

Early in her career, Ms. Mona had tried acting, a job that she didn’t like much. It wasn’t for her, she once told me. She often said that luck has always been on her side. But I know she was being humble. “Luck” got her a job as the host of a popular radio show, but soon after, she landed an  assignment covering Hong Kong and Taiwan entertainment stars. This was the beginning of her photojournalist experience.

Mona Yi 伊夢蘭 Full Reporter Mode

First Female Photojournalist in Taiwan

Ms. Mona was the first female photojournalist in Taiwan; she has been on the frontlines, where women weren’t  even allowed. She was also a pioneer who produced documentaries to promote the arts, culture, and tourism in Taiwan. Ms. Mona Yi went on to work with the International Audiovisual Room of the Information Bureau, where her horizons broadened even more. She was responsible for planning and shooting a 16-centimeter documentary about Taiwan. As an executive producer, during her tenure at the Information Bureau, she filmed many documentaries, including ”Along the River During the Qingming Festival,” showing how several famous Taiwanese contemporary artists paint; handmade bamboo weaving in Guanmiao, Tainan; Dajia straw mats in and hats in Taichung; and much more. These documentaries were sent to foreign embassies and/or overseas Chinese communities for the purpose of promoting Taiwan.

Mona’s Journey as a Military News Reporter

One of Mona’s defining moments came during the Taiwan Straits Conflict. Despite her fears of the artillery fire, she bravely covered the story. She gives credit to the senior journalists and editors who mentored her, and shared their expertise in military weapons, writing techniques, and fact-based reporting.

This experience also helped her learn how to write press releases. Since women were not allowed to board warships during those times, Mona was lucky enough to get to Kinmen via a military aircraft, for a historic interview mission.

For the later part of her 36+ years as a reporter, she was responsible for Pan Asia, a Japanese Jiji Press News Agency, as the correspondent in Taiwan. Even to this day, a woman journalist in Japan is rare, and a senior-level manager even more so.

伊大姐” “big sister” Yi  

The foreign journalists stationed in Taiwan would call her “Mama,” because she made them feel at home in Taiwan. She was always a gracious host and grateful for the life she has led both professionally and personally. She made everyone feel at home with her bright smile, caring yet often sarcastic humor, and her signature loud, infectious laugh. Her tenacity and wit also earned her the respectful “伊大姐” “big sister Yi” title from her co-workers, even though many were older in age and had more experience in the profession.

Mona Yi 伊夢蘭 cot 0324-4
Great Grandma Mona with grandson Jabez, continuing her legacy with the next generation

A Seat at the Table

And as for me, “Grandma Mona” is what I called her. I have had the privilege of sitting at the table next to her from a very young age. She made sure I was exposed to an environment where I could observe and learn about social, cultural, and current events, etiquette, and provided me with encouragement and support. One of my many favorite memories is at her office, listening to her stories while drawing on the stationary she provided.

In my heart, I believe that Grandma Mona wanted to instill in me that no matter what the world attempts to tell me, I, a woman, will always have a seat at the table.

Learn more about Mona 伊夢

For more about Mona and other first generation photojournalists in ROC, Taiwan, ”They Are Eyewitness Of History” by Yuan-Chic Yang “他们是历史的目击者: 選文 楊永智

By Rose Huang

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