In A Daughter of Han, Ida Pruitt records the reminiscences of Ning Lao Taitai, an old woman who was born in the north of China in 1867. Ning had a hard life and often rebelled against convention. She left her husband, an opium addict who sold one of her children, and worked first as a servant, then as a trader. By the standards of her culture, she was hot-tempered and inflexible. However, her rebelliousness never took the form of political radicalism or revolutionary activity.
Because of her age, "the state" for Ning always meant the emperor and his secretive court. She regarded the imperial hierarchy with respect, even awe. Her father had wanted to follow a career as a civil servant but had been unsuccessful, reinforcing her idea of the government as an untouchable caste of scholars.
Although the interviews with Pruitt took place in the 1930s, Ning shows little consciousness of the political cataclysms of recent decades or of the conflict between the Communists and the Kuomintang. However, she is well aware of Japanese aggression and deeply hostile to the Japanese. It is here, as well as in her personal loathing of the British-controlled opium trade, that Ning's nationalism finds expression, as she detests foreign interference in China, no matter who is running the government.