A Daughter of Han: The Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman tells the story of Ning Lao T'ai-T'ai and the many hardships she encounters as she struggles to keep her family together in China during the late 19th century and the years before World War II. Born in 1867 to a wealthy family, Ning finds herself married at 15 and shortly after suffers the fate of many Chinese women of the time--having her feet bound to keep her in marital servitude. Her husband, an opium addict, fails to support the family, and Ning resorts to begging in order to put food on the table. Her husband eventually sells their daughter for opium--not once, but twice--forcing Ning to leave him with her daughter Manze to resume her life of begging.
Ning eventually becomes a servant for a number of government officials, brings up her daughter and sees her grow into adulthood and motherhood, and even reunites with her husband. Her tales of life in China before the Japanese invasion of her land include many instances of inspiration and determination that provide historical insight into Chinese culture and social status. "Granny Ning" told her story to author Ida Pruitt during the late 1930s.