Program Two - Segment Two: Frontier Women

There were few Chinese women among the early wave of Chinese immigrants to this country.  Chinese women were discouraged from joining their men in America by cultural restrictions against women traveling abroad by the, lack of traveling fundsand jobs for them in America,and by US immigration policies.  The Page Act of 1875, which sought to stop the trafficking of Chinese prostitutes, placed harsh restrictions on any woman entering the country, and the Chinese Exclusion Act specifically barred the immigration of Chinese laborers, and by implication, their wives.  The laws and the lonely situation of Chinese men became a reason for underground organizations to import Chinese women as prostitutes. What little we know about these women comes from the records of Protestant Mission homes set up to rescue and house Chinese prostitutes and abused slave girls.  Some of the women themselves wrote letters to family. 


Professor Judy Yung, Author Ruthanne Lum McCunn, Actresses Elaine Low and Chisao Hata.

Produced by Sara Caswell Kolbet.

Further Internet Resources:


Cheng, Lucie and Edna Bonacich, Eds.  Labor Immigration Under Capitalism: Asian Workers in the US Before World War II.  Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984.

Elsensohn, Sister M. Alfreda. Idaho County's most romantic character: Polly Bemis. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1979.

Martin, Mildred Crowl. Chinatown’s Angry Angel: The Story of Donaldina Cameron. Palo Alto, California: Pacific Books, Publishers, 1977.

McCunn, Ruthanne Lum. Thousand Pieces of Gold. San Francisco: Design Enterprises of San Francisco, 1992.

Yung, Judy.  Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995.

Yung, Judy.  Unbound Voices: A Documentary History of Chinese Women in San Francisco. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1999.

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