The California Gold Rush and the construction of Transcontinental Railroad brought many Chinese to work in America in the mid-1800s. Merchants and students crossed the Pacific as well. Most of them were males. While some of them might have earned enough to return to China, some might stay behind for various reasons. Anti-Chinese sentiment grew as Americans felt that Chinese took away their jobs and threatened their quality of life. The Page Act of 1875 prohibited Chinese women who were identified as potential prostitutes. Under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, only merchants, clergymen, students, government officials and their wives and children can legally come to America. This dramatically reduced the number of Chinese women in America at the turn of 1900. The 1900 census revealed that there were 114,000 Asians and Pacific Islanders in America, translating to 0.15% of the total population. This category referred to Chinese and Japanese because it was not subcategorized into other ethnic groups in 1900. Eighty percent of them lived along the western seaboard. There were about 2,000 American-born Chinese women while there were about 4,000 Chinese women immigrants around 1900, most of whom were slave girls, merchants wives, farm wives, and students.
As a result of the Page Act of 1875, fewer women were available to Chinese bachelors in America. American-born Chinese young women were in demand. Most Chinese parents still pre-arranged marriages in traditional Chinese and Chinese American societies in 1900. It was likely that older Chinese bachelors were chosen in such marriages because parents often thought husbands should be older and maybe richer to provide financial security to wives. Not all Chinese American young women married happily ever after. Some of them were domestically abused while others chose to run away or divorced from their marriages.1 Most Chinese wives arrived in America at a later time after their husbands worked hard and earned enough money to bring them over.2 While they had to serve and be obedient to their parents-in-law in China, Chinese women immigrants were freed from their parents-in-law’s pressure and expectations. 3 Chinese American women made decision and earned money for their households with their husbands as they entered the New World. 4 They did not forget to pass on traditional Chinese values to their children.5
Most Chinese women immigrants were illiterate. Their American-born Chinese children received education in public schools in America.6 They communicated with their children in Chinese and sent them to Chinese schools if there was one in their neighborhoods.7 Chinese female students were financially supported by the Chinese government or missionary to attend colleges in America.8 In the first decade of 20th century, there were about 460 Chinese college students in America; 24 were females.9 There were more Chinese female college students who may not be recorded. 10 The number of Chinese female college students outnumbered other Asian female students by 1910.11 The first four Chinese female college students graduated with medical degrees in America returned to China and became the first female doctors in China. 12 The Soong sisters attended Wesleyan College in Georgia in the 1900s and the youngest sister, Mayling Soong, furthered her education at Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1913 with an undergraduate degree in English Literature. 13 They all went back to China and were influential members in their society. In New York, some Chinese female college graduates helped to establish the Chinese American Boy Scouts of the United States in 1910.14 A Columbia University Chinese female graduate became chairman of China Society of America in the 1910s.15
Some educated Chinese American women worked in the government sector.16 Some became interpreters, editors, and teachers.17 Most Chinese American women, like Chinese men in America, were excluded in the American job market except menial jobs. They often overworked and underpaid. They may be seamstress and nannies.18 Merchants’ wives worked alongside with their husbands in their restaurants, grocery stores and laundries while maintaining living quarters and raising children in the rear sections of their businesses.19 Farmers’ wives shared farming with their husbands and grew fruits, vegetables, wheat, rice, and cotton. A number of them worked in businesses and farms operated by Chinese owners.20 The problem of slavery existed the very first day Chinese women left China. Boys are considered more valuable than girls in China as they can pass on their families’ last names to the next generations. Girls from poor families in China may be traded by their parents in exchange for money; they and their parents were promised a bright future for the girls when they arrived in America.21 Others may be kidnapped.22 These girls were then brought or smuggled to America and became prostitutes.23 Most of them were ill-treated by their customers and owners.24 In order to run away, some of them were addicted to alcohol or drugs while others committed suicide. Some died in their early twenties from venereal diseases.25
In 1900, Chinese American women were not very interested in mainstream politics.26 Not only were most of them illiterate, but they also came from a culturally restricted and male-dominant society in China. Those who were well-educated delivered remarkable speeches to speak against the slavery system in China that brought many Chinese women to America as servants, concubines, or prostitutes. 27 Some encouraged others to join revolutionary efforts in 1911 to overthrow the Qing dynasty in China.28Before American women won the battle of women’s suffrage in 1920, Chinese American women in California voted for the first time in local election and U.S. presidential election in 1911 and 1912 respectively.29
Conclusion We learned about the life of Chinese women in America at the turn of 1900 by studying their family life, educational attainment, employment opportunities, and political involvement. Their equality and achievement depended heavily on their education level and their social status. Though they were racially discriminated, they were hardworking and had contributed to the American society in the early 20th century. One hundred years later, Chinese American women are more educated and independent as they continue to fight for social equality.
Yee r chinese_women
Chinese Women Rosemary Yee
Chinese men came to America as laborers, merchants, and students in the mid-1800s during the Gold Rush and construction of Transcontinental Railroad Anti-Chinese sentiment Page Act of 1875 and Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 Chinese bachelor > Chinese women 114,000 Asians & Pacific Islanders (0.15% of total U.S. population, Census 1900) 4,000 Chinese women immigrants 2,000 American-born Chinese women
Imbalanced sex ratio due to Page Act of 1875 and Chinese Exclusion Law of 1882 Older Chinese men married younger Chinese women Lived happily ever after Domestic ally abused Ran away divorced Chinese men worked hard to earn money and brought their wives to America later Make decisions and earn money together
Most Chinese women immigrants were illiterate Some were sponsored by Chinese government or missionary to study in America 1900 – 1910 At least 24 Chinese female college students The largest group of Asian female in American colleges Established the Chinese American Boy Scouts of the United States The first four graduates: medical degrees The most famous graduates: the three Soong sisters
Depends on levels of education Government sector, interpreters, editors, and teachers Laborers in restaurants, grocery stores, laundries, and farms; seamstress, and nannies Slavery Girls in China were traded or kidnapped Smuggled to America as prostitutes Some prostitutes tried to run away Addicted to alcohol and drugs Committed suicide Died of venereal diseases
Not active in mainstream politics Active in Chinese community politics Spoke against the slavery system in China that brought many Chinese women to America as servants, concubines, or prostitutes Encouraged others to join revolutionary efforts to overthrow the Qing dynasty in China in 1911 Chinese American Women voted for the first time in California 1911 - Local election 1912 - U.S. presidential election
We learned about the life of Chinese women in America at the turn of 1900 by studying their family life, educational attainment, employment opportunities, and political involvement Their equality and achievement depended heavily on their education level and their social status One hundred years later, Chinese American women are more educated and independent as they continue to fight for social equality
1. Huping Ling, Surviving on the Gold Mountain, (New York: SUNY Press, 1998), EBSCOhost., 89.2. Ibid., 41.3. Ibid., 85.4. Ibid., 85.5. Ibid., 95.6. Ibid., 96.7. Ibid.8. Huping Ling, “A History of Chinese Female Students in the United States, 1880s-1990s,” Journal of American Ethnic History, 16, No. 3 (Spring, 1997): 87.9. Ibid., 84.10. Ibid., 8311. Hua Liang, “Fighting for a New Life: Social and Patriotic Activism of Chinese American Women in New York City, 1900 to 1945,” Journal of American Ethnic History, 17, No. 2 (Winter,1998): 25.12. Ling, “A History of Chinese Female Students,” 83.13. Ibid., 87.14. Liang, “Fighting for a New Life,” 26.15. Ibid., 27.
Chinese Women At Work, The National Women’s History Museum, n.d., http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/chinese/26.html. Hua Liang, “Fighting for a New Life: Social and Patriotic Activism of Chinese American Women in New York City, 1900 to 1945,” Journal of American Ethnic History, 17, No. 2 (Winter,1998): 22-38, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27502268. Huping Ling, “A History of Chinese Female Students in the United States, 1880s-1990s,” Journal of American Ethnic History, 16, No. 3 (Spring, 1997): 81-109, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27502268. Huping Ling, Surviving on the Gold Mountain, (New York: SUNY Press, 1998), EBSCOhost. The Three Soong Sisters - Three Women Who Changed the Course of Chinese History, Cultural China, last modified 2010, http://history.cultural-china.com/en/48History7178.html. U.S. Census Bureau, “Demographic Trends in the 20thCentury”, Nov 2002. U.S. Census Bureau, “Selected Historical Decennial Census Population and Housing Counts”, 1990. U.S. National Archives Photostream, U.S. National Archives, last modified 2012, http://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/5658036707/. William Wong, Jean Quan, Oakland’s Next Mayor, Completes 99-Year Journey,” SFGate.com Blog, Nov 11, 2011, http://blog.sfgate.com/wwong/category/oakland-ca/. Yoke Leen, The National Women’s History Museum, n.d., http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/chinese/25.html.