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About Us

The Harry H. Dow Memorial Legal Assistance Fund (a/k/a, the Dow Fund) was founded in 1985 in memory of Harry H. Dow (1904-1985), a Suffolk University Law School graduate who in 1929, became the first Asian American admitted to practice law in Massachusetts. 

Harry Hom Dow was born in Hudson, Massachusetts on March 13, 1904, the first-born son of Chinese immigrants.  In 1905, his family moved to Boston’s South End, where they would reside for over half a century.  After his father died when Harry was 13 years old, he helped his mother raise his five younger siblings and run the family laundry business, while also attending school.  The construction of a new building to house the laundry business influenced Harry to enter law school.  Harry concluded that understanding the law, including contractual matters, might have alleviated many of the problems they faced with in connection with the construction.  Harry earned his degree as a night student at Suffolk University Law School.  In 1929, he became the first Chinese American to be admitted to the Massachusetts Bar.  When asked about his future plans in a Boston Globe article publicizing the historic occasion, Harry stated “I hope to champion the cause of the Chinese in this country.” 

After working for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services for 20 years, Harry opened private law offices in Boston and New York, specializing in immigration law.  In the early 1960s, after retiring from government work and private practice, Harry focused on community work primarily in Boston’s South End, volunteering as a pro bono lawyer for the Emergency Tenants Council and Villa Victoria.  He was a leading force in conceptualizing and creating the South End Community Health Center.

Harry remained an activist in the South End until his passing, donating his time and legal skills to serve and champion not only the Chinese Americans on this country, but also the poor, people of color, and elder communities.  He served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the South End Neighborhood Action Program, Tent City, Greater Boston Legal Services, South Cove Community Health Center in Chinatown, South End Community Health Center, United South End Settlements, the Emergency Tenants Council, the South End Project Area Committee, Casa Myrna Vasquez Shelter for Women, Central Boston Elder Services, and the Boston Council for Elders.

The Dow Fund was established by members of Harry’s family and the Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts (AALAM) to create a permanent endowment to provide resources to ensure access to the legal system for Asian Americans who are deprived of justice due to barriers such as language, race, culture, poverty, or immigration status.  We strive to fulfill this mission by providing annual grants to non-profit organizations providing services in the areas of immigration, family, housing, domestic violence, disability, employment, public assistance, consumer rights, and civil rights law.

Over the past 35 years, the Dow Fund has launched numerous projects, including: Anti-Asian Violence Education Project, Asian Battered Women Project, Asian Immigrant Rights Initiative, Cambodian Outreach Project, Chinatown Stabilization Project, and the Dow Fund Community Internship.

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