Stories about Comrade Trần Thị Dư


      In this post for celebrating International Women’s Day 08/3/2014, I’d like to share stories from memoirs about Comrade Trần Thị Dư – the only female member of the first Communist party of Hội An town in 1930.

   Comrade Trần Thị Dư was born in 1910 at Cẩm Phô village, Hội An. She had been motherless since she was a child; therefore, she had to work to feed herself very early. In the memoir of “From the early seeds”, she said “…I worked in French tea factory in Hội An. There were 1.000 workers working here… The employer paid us very low salary, only 12 or 13 cents per day…  In 1925, the factory was closed; I had no job and started to sell won-ton noodles”.

   However, she faced many difficulties in her new business cause by the police. Under the help of her brother Mr. Trần Cần, she started to study reading, writing and understanding history of the country… She met Comrades Hà Mùi and Phan Văn Định who were members of Vietnamese Revolutionary youth association in Hội An. She remembered: “In December of 1929, I and Ms Vân were admitted to the Vietnamese Revolutionary youth association in Hội An. Admission ceremony was hold at No.1 Pine tree in Trường Lệ, Hội An… I acted revolutionary in team with comrades Vân, Hà Mùi and other comrades”. Comrade Trần Thị Dư was an important member of the team, which was responsible for leaflet distribution, hanging nation flag, report enemy’s secret information, alerting people while secretly working… Besides, Ms Dư regularly met women for propaganda women liberation thought, managed relief money received from patriots such as Mr Đốc Huy… The missions of Comrade Trần Thị Dư were very difficult. She needed to be sensitive and have good communication skill to adapt unexpected situations.

   Because of her efforts, Comrade Trần Thị Dư was admitted to Hội An communist party in May 1930. She was responsible for women liberation, making contact, documents printing and leaflet distribution. During working for revolution, she fell in love with Comrade Huỳnh Lắm, a member of Hội An communist party.

   In the beginning, when communist party of Quảng Nam province and Hội An town had just been established, contact mission and printing document for propaganda were considered as the most important tasks. Comrade Trần Thị Dư remembered: “I went to Đà Nẵng twice or three times a week. Firstly, I met Ms Giang, then Ms Ái to received documents. Sometimes, there were too many documents to carry, so I attached them around my legs or put on my stomach and disguised as pregnant woman. I came back Hội An by car, stopped at Mr. Vân’s house, Mr Định received documents here. Then we found that it was very dangerous to carry so many documents by this way. Therefore, we decided to take only one sample and print as much as we need. We used a garage of French legation in Hội An as printing place. Mr. Định bought ink that was very rare at that time. I bought gelatin for making mold. We had printed documents here for long time. Until one time, the minister came to the garage, we were afraid to be exposed”

   The members in communist party of Quảng Nam province and Hội An town decided to move printing place to safer place. Comrade Trần Thị Dư told about the conversation of them that day: “Mr. Định said: “We need to move the printing place to safer house. The house must be a normal house for a family living. Mr Lắm and Ms Dư loved each other. Now, you will get married, buy a house and live there”. However, Mr. Lắm refused “We can not get married. The enemy will catch both of us at once.”

   Then Mr Lắm suggested to hold a fake wedding ceremony between Ms Dư and Mr Lội (Nguyễn Tất Đạt) – a barber from other district Duy Xuyên. Ms Dư accepted, she thought, “The most important thing now is revolution mission, not private life”. Mr. Lắm prepared for the wedding of his lover. Ms Dư and her fake husband lived in a thatched house at Cẩm Phô village. Mr. Lội went to his barbershop everyday, Comrades Trần Kim Bảng, Trần Đại Quả secretly printed documents in this house. Ms Dư worked as a shipper, went to many places for delivering secret documents. She also was responsible for leaflet distribution in dangerous places such as police station, hospital, trading and center roads. She usually hired documents under her clothes (áo dài).

   Two months after the day Mr Trần Kim Bảng had a speech front of Quảng Triệu Pagoda, the French troops went to Ms Dư’s house and catched Mr. Bảng and Quả. From then, the activities of Hội An communist party were getting down. Ms Dư had been caught and put in prison. She still fought for opposing the harsh regime in prison

   The memoir “From the early seeds” reflects the mind of women in the beginning of joining the war. They had to be smart, fearless, even sacrificed their love for revolutionary mission.

* Source:

  1. Proceedings of Executive committee of Hội An communist party during 1927 – 2004, page 11,12,13,14.
  2. Memoir of comrade Trần Thị Dư during 1930 – 1931: Archives of Hội An Committee Propaganda.
  3. The memoir “From the early seeds”, page 130-141: Communist Party history Research Council and Art Council of Quảng Nam Đà Nẵng.

Trương Hoàng Vinh