Introduction

Leaving China & the
Journey Across the
Pacific

Cultural Traditions

Women in Early
Chinatowns

Anti-Chinese Violence
& Women's Resistance

Chinese Women at
Work

Educational
Opportunities

Women in Cultural
Work

The Great Depression
and War

Conclusion

Additional Resources


 

 

 

Courtesy of Del Norte County Historical Society, California.

One year after the roundup in Eureka, two Chinese women joined fifty Chinese men in the ground breaking lawsuit, Wing Hing vs. The City of Eureka (1886), 28 the first lawsuit by Chinese Americans to demand damages for their lost property, and more radically, to demand reparations for being the “object” of mob violence—likely the first lawsuit for reparations in the United States. Tai Kim sued the City for $850. Ah How, a proprietor of a business, sued Eureka for $1,780 for the loss of her home and the loss of her business.  Tai Kim and Ah How said the City of Eureka and the State of California “had due notice of the assembling of the mob and of the riot…but [it] failed and neglected to quell [the ] riot…disperse the mob, or to protect [their] property.” 29

In Tacoma, in the Washington Territory, at 9:30 on the morning of November 3, 1885, all the whistles at the foundries blew, alerting vigilantes to begin the rout of the two Chinatowns. By mid day the Chinese American men, women, and children began a forced march, nine miles in the mud and rain, to a railroad crossing they had built. During the cold night, a few took trains south to Portland, Oregon. The rest began a long trek, taking weeks to follow the railroad tracks 140 miles south. Some women marched on tiny bound feet; mothers carried their children in scarves and shawls tied to their backs. 30

San Jose's downtown Chinatown burnt to the ground in 1880.
History San Jose Research Center

In 1880, San Jose’s Chinatown, a center for Chinese fieldworkers, mill workers, seamstresses, opera singers, monks, and families of Santa Clara County, California, burned to the ground for the fifth time, but soon rebuilt of brick and barbed wire.

Chinese American women courageously resisted the anti-Chinese violence. In the anti-Chinese riot in Los Angeles in 1871, in which two Chinese women and 17 Chinese men were lynched, a woman seized a rifle and fired on the mob from the roof of her house. Chinese American women joined the men in organizing boycotts, refusing to sell vegetables to hotels or white housewives who joined in anti-Chinese violence. In Chico, many Chinese American women simply refused to leave the Chinatowns they had built. In poetry and fiction they gave voice to their rage. They joined lawsuits for reparations and brought criminal actions against vigilantes and kidnappers. Perhaps of the greatest courage, enslaved Chinese women managed to flee from the cages and the brothels of San Francisco, and make their way to rural towns across the Pacific North West, New York, and Canada. 31