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Immigrants Of The Day: Mary Paik Lee of Korea, Mona Rico of Mexico, and Meryle Secrest of United Kingdom

by Kevin R. Johnson

Mary Paik Lee (Korea)

Marypaiklee Mary Paik Lee (1900-95) was a writer, born Paik Kuang Sun in Pyongyang, now the capital of North Korea. In 1905, she left Korea with her family and arrived in Hawaii. In December 1906, the family moved to California, where Paik Lee would live the rest of her life.  Despite Paik Lee's father's educated status in Korea, her parents in California took on a variety of menial jobs and Paik Lee suffered many hardships.

Quietodyssey Mary Paik Lee's memoir, Quiet Odyssey (1990) was one of the first memoirs by an Asian-American woman. Covering the majority of the twentieth century, Quiet Odyessey provides an important perspective on the last century.  Click here for a biography with excerpts from her autobiography .

February 26, 2008 | Permalink

Mona Rico (Mexico)

Mona Rico (1907-1994) was born Enrigueta Di Valenzuela in Mexico City, Mexico. An actress, her films include Eternal Love (1929), Shanghai Lady (1929), A Devil With Women (1930), and Zorro Rides Again (1937). Rico and her mother walked across the Mexican border.  She came to Hollywood at age 19 in 1928.

Rico secured a five-year acting contract. Her first role of significance came opposite John Barrymore as the second lead in Eternal Love. It was reported that Miss Rico was sitting in the casting room of the studio when a girl's hands were needed in a film test. After her hands were recorded, she was given a screen test. The following day she obtained her contract.

Rico's first all-talkie feature was as a Spanish dancing girl in Shanghai Lady.

At the age of 23, Rico became an American citizen. Rico died in Los Angeles, California on July 15, 1994.

February 27, 2008 | Permalink

Meryle Secrest (United Kingdom)

Secrest_meryle educated in Bath, England. She began her career as a journalist in Canada. After her family emigrated to Canada, she worked as women's editor for the Hamilton News in Ontario, Canada; shortly thereafter, Secrest was named "Most Promising Young Writer" by the Canadian Women's Press Club. In 1964 she began writing for the Washington Post. In 1975, Secrest left the Post to write full-time.

Secrest has written a number of critically-acclaimed biographies; her subjects have included Frank Lloyd Wright, Joseph Lord Duveen, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Salvador Dali, Kenneth Clark, Bernard Berenson, Romaine Brooks, and Richard Rodgers. She has also published an autobiography entitled Shoot the Widow: Adventurers of a Biographer in Search of Her Subject (2007).


Secrest became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1957 and now lives in Washington, D.C.

Secrest's Being Bernard Berenson was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1980 and for the American Book Awards in 1981. In 2006, she received the National Humanities Medal.

February 28, 2008 | Permalink

These posts were orginally posted on the ImmigrationProf Blog here, here and here.

About The Author

Kevin R. Johnson is currently Dean, Professor of Law and Chicana/o Studies, and the Mabie-Apallas Public Interest Law Chair holder at the University of California at Davis. He is also one of the editors of ImmigrationProf Blog .

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

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