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F869.S39 C56 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

Seven years before the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 comprehensively disqualified all members of China's laboring class from immigration status, the Page Law sought to stem the tide of Chinese prostitutes entering the United States. Yet during these seven years it was not just prostitutes but all Chinese females who encountered at best hostility and at worst expulsion when they reached the "Golden Door." In this first detailed account of Chinese American women's lives in the preexclusion era, George Anthony Peffer investigates how administrative agencies and federal courts enforced immigration laws. Peffer documents the habeas corpus trials in which the wives and daughters of Chinese laborers were required to prove their status as legal immigrants or be returned to China. He also surveys the virulently anti- Chinese coverage these trials and the issue of Chinese immigration received in California newspapers, confirming that Chinatown's prostitution industry so dominated the popular imagination as to render other classes of female immigrants all but invisible. In the words of one immigration judge, the United States remained favorable to Chinese immigration in the preexclusion period "if they don't bring their women here." This important study amplifies the voices of immigrant women who did not fit into the preconceived categories American officials created and establishes a place for them within the historiographic framework of Chinese American studies.


Summary

Investigates how administrative agencies and federal courts actually enforced immigration laws.


Reviews 2

Choice Review

The exclusion of Asian immigrants is an unpleasant yet provocative part of American ethnic history. The US response to and treatment of Chinese women was particularly xenophobic. In the eyes of many native-born Americans, they were all prostitutes. This belief engendered a variety of negative reactions, ranging from improper enumeration in the decennial census to passage of the 1875 Page Law, which prohibited the importation of all Chinese prostitutes. Bigoted officials then used this provision to exclude, or at least harass, wives and other legitimate female immigrants. Individual chapters provide excellent examples of this behavior among the ranks of Hong Kong consuls and San Francisco authorities. Peffer's work joins a number of recent studies, especially Andrew Gyory's Closing the Gates (CH, Jun'99), in enhancing understanding of the historically negative American reaction to Asians. Peffer both narrates the story and compares his work to that of other scholars. Academics, for whom this work is recommended, may appreciate this type of historiographical discussion. Upper-division undergraduates and above. R. F. Zeidel; University of Wisconsin--Stout


Choice Review

The exclusion of Asian immigrants is an unpleasant yet provocative part of American ethnic history. The US response to and treatment of Chinese women was particularly xenophobic. In the eyes of many native-born Americans, they were all prostitutes. This belief engendered a variety of negative reactions, ranging from improper enumeration in the decennial census to passage of the 1875 Page Law, which prohibited the importation of all Chinese prostitutes. Bigoted officials then used this provision to exclude, or at least harass, wives and other legitimate female immigrants. Individual chapters provide excellent examples of this behavior among the ranks of Hong Kong consuls and San Francisco authorities. Peffer's work joins a number of recent studies, especially Andrew Gyory's Closing the Gates (CH, Jun'99), in enhancing understanding of the historically negative American reaction to Asians. Peffer both narrates the story and compares his work to that of other scholars. Academics, for whom this work is recommended, may appreciate this type of historiographical discussion. Upper-division undergraduates and above. R. F. Zeidel; University of Wisconsin--Stout