The first Chinese woman to study the sciences in the United States arrived as a government-sponsored student in 1907, the same year that the Qing court first sanctioned primary education for women and two years before the first Boxer Indemnity students were sent to America. Over the next three decades, many women went abroad to study science, most of whom returned to China with their own potent dreams of scientific service, but only some of whom were able to chart their own paths as researchers and educators. This paper explores the unique contours of their experiences and the ways that their largely unknown story recasts other, more familiar narratives. I begin by examining young women’s access to and interest in scientific training in China. It is tempting to assume that Chinese students turned to science to strengthen and save the nation, but how would such ideals make sense for girls who had few prospects for careers outside the home and far more reason to embrace the rhetoric of “good wives and mothers” than to pursue science? The case of Chinese women forces us to consider a broader spectrum of reasons why students were attracted to the sciences than just “nationalism” or “modernity”. I then examine women’s experiences of overseas education, and the ways that their management of intercultural and transnational differences reshaped gender dynamics at home and abroad. I conclude by analyzing Chinese women scientists’ intersectionality and the erasure of their dynamic marginality in favor of success stories or silence.