Through a gendered analysis of the San Francisco anti-Chinese movement, this paper raises new questions about the historical and social construction of class identity. The analysis suggests that the historical process of political identity formation functions both as a process of exclusion and as a process of moving strategically among social categories in an effort to build political coalitions. The paper turns first to the ways that the white male labor movement conceptualized working women as victims of both sexual perversion and economic competition as a result of the presence of Chinese male immigrant laborers. Second, it looks at the divergent constructions of white working women by male and female employers, and argues for the salience of class, race and gender to employers' assessments of the value of white working women. Finally, the article explores how white working women navigated complex political coalitions by organizing on their own behalf to challenge their depiction in the rhetorics of the male labor movement and of middle-class women. The paper concludes by arguing that racially coded class and gender identities emerged as powerful sites of political coalition as a result of the presence of the Chinese male "other."

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pp. 73-95
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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