Leaving China & the
Journey Across the

Cultural Traditions

Women in Early

Anti-Chinese Violence
& Women's Resistance

Chinese Women at


Women in Cultural

The Great Depression
and War


Additional Resources




Three women on Kearney Street, Chinatown, San Francisco.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-G403- 0354

Most of the first generation of Chinese American women created the communities of early Chinatowns. A class of laboring Chinese women emerged in Chinatowns across the West. These women, who were neither merchants’ wives nor enslaved prostitutes, spent most of their time cooking, sewing, cleaning, and tending to the needs of their families. In the little time left for leisure, they visited their neighbors, spent an evening at the Chinese opera, joined the Dragon and Lion parades, and celebrated Chinese festivals.

Many of the first Chinese American women also provided family income. With their new economic power they began to share decision-making with their husbands. Life in the United States, though unfamiliar and frightening, presented fewer cultural restraints than in China and women’s position within the family generally improved.

Click here to see images of life in New York and San Francisco Chinatowns.