I came across this advertisement in a 1933 issue (August 25) of the Union Times, a Chinese newspaper from Singapore. It is for Milkmaid Brand Condensed Milk, and it praises this elderly woman because ever since she first became a mother she has been drinking a glass of Milkmaid Brand Condensed Milk every morning and every evening, and that is why she is so healthy.


What I find interesting about this advertisement is the way that this woman is dressed. She is wearing a kebaya and sarong, the form of dress for Straits Chinese women. The Straits Chinese were Chinese who emigrated to the area of Singapore and the Malay Peninsula and who intermarried with Malays and adopted some of their cultural practices.


By the 1930s, at least the more well-off Chinese in Singapore were starting to follow the fashions of places like Shanghai, where men were dressing in Western clothes and women were wearing the qipao, a “modernized” version of a traditional form of dress.


Grandma, however, still dressed the way that Straits Chinese women in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula had dressed for over a century. But that didn’t mean that she was completely “traditional.”

After all, she drank Milkmaid Brand Condensed Milk. Grandma was a modern woman too. . . in her own way.