Ethnic Studies Review

Ethnic Studies Review


Philip Q. Yang

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Ethnic Studies Review





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Ethnic Constructions


If They Don't Bnng [Bring] Their Women Here by George Peffer is another significant addition to the skimpy repertory of books on the history of Chinese American women, which includes Judy Yung's Chinese Women of America (1986) and Unbounded Feet (1995), Benson Tong's Unsubmissive Women (1994), and Huping Ling's Surviving on the Gold Mountain (1999). Unlike the other volumes, Peffer's book focuses on the debarment of Chinese women from immigration to the United States before the 1882 general exclusion of Chinese laborers. He argues that the cultural constraints imposed by the traditional Chinese joint family structure and the male sojourner mentality did not suffice to induce the protracted shortage of Chinese female immigrants and that the Page Law of 1875 and its enforcement played a more pivotal role in restricting the immigration of Chinese women. Using data from U.S. government documents, court records, and newspapers, he documents with some measure of success that although the Page Law literally forbade only the entry of prostitutes (including Chinese ones), the broader applicationof this law resulted in a de facto exclusion of Chinese female immigrants during the seven years prior to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Peffer also demonstrates how California's anti-Chinese press shaped and intensified the expanded application of the Page Law, how the anti-Chinese sentiment led to the possible overcounting of Chinese prostitutes in San Francisco in the 1870 and 1880 censuses, and how the de facto Chinese female exclusion engendered the lopsided development of the Chinese community. By piecing the scattered information together, this book enhances our understanding of the causes of the Chinese "bachelor's society' as well as the experiences of Chinese female immigrants before the Chinese exclusion.