Nand Kaur

Nand Kaur was the first Sikh woman to settle in Yuba City when she arrived in 1924.  In a 1990 interview, she described the intense loneliness she felt in the early years without the company of other women: “I was anxious to talk to women.  I didn’t care whether it was an Indian or American” (Cling Peach Review, 1990).  During the first few decades, she was only able to socialize with other Punjabi women a few times each year when she and her husband, Puna Singh, would drive three hours to the Sikh Gurdwara in Stockton.  The families of the early men from Punjab and their wives gathered in Stockton from across the western United States to celebrate Sikh holidays and India’s Independence from Britain, and to meet visiting Indian dignitaries.  

When the Punjabi community began to grow in the years after World War II, Nand Kaur played a central role in the community’s development.  She would speak publicly in Punjabi and in English at the annual Indian Republic Day events in Yuba City.  Nand Kaur also helped women after they arrived from Punjab, giving them home supplies to start their households, and advice about how to act in a new cultural environment.  She cautioned them against wearing Indian clothes in public in the 1950s amidst open hostility from the white community.  When it became acceptable to wear Punjabi clothes in the 1970s, Punjabi women often enjoyed wearing their traditional clothes in public once again.  Nand Kaur was known affectionately and respectfully as “mother” in the community.

Largely forgotten is the fact that Nand Kaur and Puna Singh donated one acre of land  to establish a local Gurdwara during the Vaisakhi (harvest) festival in April 1964.  Nand Kaur hoped that a Gurdwara in Yuba City would help families whose children often missed school on the Mondays programs in Stockton due to the long drive.  Although it was ultimately built on a larger site owned by the Purewal family, it is important to recognize this act of generosity on behalf of Nand Kaur and Puna Singh six years before Yuba City’s first Gurdwara opened in 1970. 

Nand Kaur enjoyed close friendships with a diverse group of women and men in the Punjabi community and in the broader society. As a respected leader in the community, she was frequently on the phone giving advice. She was also the most outspoken woman in the community, who was unafraid to speak her mind in public. She weighed in on most of the important local community decisions during her lifetime.

Nand Kaur and her husband, Puna Singh, donated land for the purpose of constructing a Gurdwara in Yuba City. Photo Credit: Appeal Democrat, April 1964.

To learn more about Nand Kaur and her family, visit: Puna Singh and Nand Kaur

Sources: “Grower Remembers Days as First Sikh Woman in Yuba City,” Cling Peach Review Summer/Fall 1990, 22-23; and, interviews with Sikh women pioneers by Nicole Ranganath, especially with Harbhajan Kaur Takher, Yuba City, December 16, 2017.