In the mid- and late nineteenth century, Protestant missionaries were prominent interlocutors about gender and sexual relations in Chinese American communities. This study analyzes meeting records from the Presbyterian San Jose Woman’s Board of Missions, which formed in 1874 to evangelize residents of the Market Street Chinatown in San Jose, California. Missionary women recorded details of home life in Chinatown, generating rare eyewitness accounts of topics ranging from foot binding and the traffic in women to marital relations and women’s work. In addition to tracing the ways in which Chinese American women’s lives were constrained by sexist and racist oppression, the archive reveals the importance of mobility, strategic alliances, economic power, educational pursuits, and affective relationships to Chinese American women’s lives. The archive also provides an early example of European American women’s discourse about topics that are central nodes in Asian American studies: the circulation of bodies through migration and settlement, the inflection of racial and religious difference through gendered lenses, and the porous character of the U.S. geopolitical frontier.


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pp. 105-134
Launched on MUSE
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