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


 

 

 

Yoke Leen

Affidavit of Yoke Leen, February 21, 1910.
Tuolumne County Museum and History Center, Sonora, CA

Despite the roundups, the on-going fears of anti-Chinese violence, and the threat of deportation, many Chinese American women insisted that local governments protect their rights to live as they chose.  One Chinese woman refused to submit to sexual slavery. 

In 1910 Yoke Leen marched into the courthouse in Sonora, California and demanded that the clerk take her deposition and preserve it in the county records.  In her affidavit Yoke Leen described herself—her height, her hair, her scars. She attached a photograph. And then she announced that she was a free woman.  She created this unique legal document to define her freedom in case any man might “try to do away with me either by bringing some fictitious charge against me or by kidnapping and imprisoning me.” Then she signed her name in English and Chinese. 33

 

Yoke Leen's mark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voting

A Chinese American woman voting in New York, 1912.
New York Public Library, 733568F

Second-generation Chinese American women participated in American politics and contributed to Chinese nationalist causes. California women won the vote in November 1911 and quickly used their new right. Chinese American women born in the United States were citizens, and depending on state law, were able to vote in local elections.

In 1911 Emma Hoo Tom and Clara Chan Lee voted in Oakland, California and apparently were the first two Chinese American women to register to vote in the United States.

On May 19, 1912, Tye Leung Schulze became the first Chinese woman to cast a ballot in San Francisco and the San Francisco Call termed her “the first Chinese woman in the history of the world to exercise the electoral franchise.” She was also the first Chinese woman hired to work at Angel Island Detention Center as an interpreter.

California and other western states were more progressive than those in the Midwest and East, and Emma Hoo Tom, Clara Chan Lee, and Tye Leung Schulze’s ballots were cast eight to nine years prior to that of most American women, who officially won the vote on August 26, 1920. 34