BLOG: Women important in Mary Yu’s life

By Assunta Ng

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Ruth Woo, Hon. Phyllis G. McKinney, Justice Mary Yu, and Hon. Anne Levinson (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

On May 20, three women were invited by Washington State Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu’s swearing-in ceremony. One of them was political guru Ruth Woo.

Many community members are aware that “Auntie Ruth,” now in her 80s, would do anything to help Yu win the Supreme Court position. For decades, Auntie Ruth has been helping Asian community leaders to get to where they are today. She has mentored and supported people, including Ambassador Gary Locke, Martha Choe, Dolores Sibonga, Sharon Tomiko Santos, and many others.

The battle to get Yu to the Supreme Court was not an easy one. When Yu first applied for the job, former Gov. Christine Gregoire picked another person instead. I remember Auntie Ruth was upset, as if she was being denied the appointment. On May 20, Auntie Ruth was smiling so happily as her wish had finally come true. But she feels her job is not done yet. She dreams of having an Asian American in the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s about time, isn’t it?

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Richard Yu and his sister, Justice Mary Yu. (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

Mary Yu’s Asian/Hispanic roots    

I met Yu’s brother, Richard, at the ceremony. He told me about their roots. Their dad was from an island close to Shanghai, China. A seaman, he jumped ship when he was 12 years old, in 1919, with a group of 11 men in New York.

Their dad met his Mexican bride in America. She had worked on a farm, but they met later, in a metal factory.

They settled in Chicago outside Chinatown. Richard said his dad spoke very little Spanish and English. Mary and Richard’s first language was Spanish because they lived with their mom’s mother. Neither sibling speaks Chinese. Yu has no Chinese name. (end)

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