Marie Louie

Marie Louie grew up outside of Chinatown. Her father worked as an herbalist.


Written by Annie Luong

Marie Louie was born on Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles on April 6th, 1927. Her mother was born in Ventura in a place called “China Alley” and moved to Los Angeles when she was nine. Her father came to the states from Hoi Ping, China in 1905, having studied medicine in Canton. Through an arranged marriage, the two were matched and married in 1910. Her father ran an herb store in the business district on South Broadway in what is presently known as South Central. Growing up, Marie recalls going to her parents’ herb store after school where she chatted with patients as they waited for their medicine.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Marie and her family were one of many who began boycotting Japanese goods. At one point she notes that her mother, along with their family friend, Mrs. Tom joined other women who were picketing at San Pedro against sending scrap iron to Japan. They picketed along the shore where men were loading the iron onto ships. She remembers, “my mother is a very shy person. And yet she went to picket, which we thought was out of character for her, but she really felt the need to picket.”

As World War II dragged on, Marie and her family were one of many that were greatly affected by the war. Marie attended Jefferson High School for only one semester and transferred to Manual Arts High School during the war years. During the war, many Chinese were given little buttons with wordings such as “I am Chinese American.” She remembers, “we wore that on our clothes every day to school and my father had it on his jacket. We didn’t want to be mistaken for Japanese.”

After the war, from 1945 to 1949, Marie attended the University of Southern California. During those years, she was part of a club sponsored by the YWCA called “We Are One.” In the club, Marie and her fellow members aided returnees from the internment camps by helping them fix and clean the homes that they had to abandon. The war was over, but hostile feelings towards the Japanese were still prevalent. For instance, Marie remembers that there was a flower shop that did not welcome Japanese. With a couple of other girls from her club, they pretended to be Japanese, while another girl lectured the shopkeeper about discrimination being against the law. Marie worked in the Doheny Memorial Library on campus for 15 years.

Before the war, Marie’s older sister, Lillian returned with her husband to China in 1933. Her brother Arthur, went to Yenching to study to be a doctor, and her sister, Marian, fell in love with one of Arthur’s schoolmates and went to China when his time in the U.S. was up. When the Communists took power in 1949, her siblings were not able to return to the United States. In 1975, after almost 25 years, her family was finally reunited. Marian states, “our family was reunited for the first time in about 25 years and that meant a lot to all of us.” She recalls her mother saying, “and now all my children have come home!”