Raj Kor Poonian

Raj Kor was one of the first Punjabi women to arrive in the United States when she arrived in 1921.  Although she is not widely remembered, she played a critical role in the local Punjabi community’s development.  Raj Kor and her son, Paritem Singh Poonian, established a successful family nursery business.  She was also the grandmother-in-law of Didar Singh Bains, the most influential Punjabi American farmer in the United States.  

Born in undivided British Punjab in about 1892, Raj Kor arrived in the United States aboard a ship that docked in the port of San Francisco on July 1, 1921.  She traveled with her husband, Dhana Singh Poonian, and at least one of her sons, Paritem.  They lived an itinerant life as migrant farm workers in the early years before settling in Loomis, Placer County, CA.

After her husband passed away, Raj Kor and her son, Paritem, established the Poonian Nurseries of Roseville in 1957.  Together they managed the family business that became lucrative in the 1960s.  Paritem later served as the President of Stockton’s Gurdwara (1962-66) and later the first President of Yuba City’s Gurdwara (1970-71).  Raj Kor’s influence was extended through her granddaughter, Santi Bains, who married Didar Singh Bains.

*This profile uses the spelling of Raj Kor Poonian’s name as it appears in US Census records.  Kor is a less common spelling of the name given to all Sikh women as a sign of respect, Kaur (princess).

Sources: US Census records and Paritem Singh Poonian, Obituary, Press Tribune, August 1, 1974.

Raj Kor (right) with her husband, Dhana Singh Poonian, and children, location unknown, c 1927.  Courtesy of the Bains family and Yuba City’s Punjabi American Heritage Society.

Marriage portrait of Janie S. Diwan and Paritem Singh Poonian.  Left to right: Raj Kor Poonian, Janie S. Diwan, Paritem Singh Poonian, Isabel Singh, Diwan Singh, and Nora Singh, location unknown, 1939.  Courtesy of the Bains family.