The Chinese tradition of binding feet, thought to make women more beautiful and symbolizing subservience and status, was banned in the country more than 100 years ago. Now, there are fewer and fewer women still alive who endured the painful tradition.
Photographer Jo Farrell is working on a project to document the lives of the last of these women, recently exceeding her funding goal of $8,000 on Kickstarter with five days left of the crowd-fundraising initiative to go.
Farrell explained that while the feet binding tradition was “considered fairly barbaric,” it was one that helped young women find a husband.
“Match-makers or mother-in-laws required their son’s betrothed to have bound feet as a sign that she would be a good wife (she would be subservient and without complaint),” Farrell wrote. “A tradition that started in the Song Dynasty, it was originally banned in 1911. It continued in rural areas until around 1939 whereupon women with bound feet had the bindings forcibly removed by government decree.”
Farrell hopes her “Living History: Bound Feet Women of China” project would be of use to museums and anthropological studies of traditions and cultures. Unlike many depictions of foot-binding traditions that focus wealthier lifestyles, Farrell wrote that the women she documents are rural peasant farmers.
“[Their's] was not the life of beautifully embroidered shoes and luxury lifestyles,” Farrell wrote.
Yet, they are “the most amazing, kind, generous and compassionate women I have ever met,” she said.
In addition to documenting the long-term effects of this tradition as well as the lifestyles of these women, Farrell is doing so the old-fashioned way, using black-and-white film that she processes in her own darkroom.
Learn more about Farrell’s project in her Kickstarter video:
Over the last eight years, Farrell has photographed and interviewed dozens of Chinese women with bound feet. Funds raised through her Kickstarter project will allow for a final trip to China to complete the “Living History.”
(H/T: Daily Mail)