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Mindful masquerades: que(e)rying Japanese immigrant dress in turn-of-the-century San Francisco.


In 1900 an actor sporting a hat and suit appeared on stage at the California Theater near San Francisco's Union Square. Singing "Rag Time Mixes My Brain," the performer, who might have appeared to be a man, actually was a woman named Mary Marble. While she sang about nonsensical American slang that fuddled the brain, her presence as a woman in man-drag likely signaled an additional "mix[ing] of the brain." Gender impersonators such as Marble particularly delighted theatergoers at the turn of the century. (1) Not far from the applause of the California Theater, recent immigrants from Japan gathered for a group photograph in Golden Gate Park. Nearly all of the thirty-six men wore Western-style outfits, three-piece ensembles of white collared shirts, buttoned vests, and matching blazers. Some had topped their outfits with ties or tailored hats. The event marked an important moment for these neatly dressed men. (2) Though separated by only a few miles, Mary Marble and the young immigrant men appeared worlds apart--one of performance and recreation and the other of community building in a harshly anti-Asian city. As much as the two realities appeared to exist on separate planes, they in fact shared one terrain, for they both enacted mindful masquerades. As performers beguiled audiences in their gender transformations, Japanese immigrants deliberately donned Western dress in hopes of transforming themselves into "Americans." Together, they revealed coexisting ideologies of passing and privilege that grew complicated along the axes of gender and race.

By taking on deliberate presentations, both groups manipulated their identities visually to mask a perhaps physically unchangeable part of themselves. Gender illusionists who successfully passed as a different gender made gains at the box office. Japanese immigrants who wore Western dress less successfully transformed their race, despite their "American" appearance. Ironically, local whites who would not see Japanese immigrants as Americans celebrated the kimono and, specifically, the Japanese femininity it signified. Their embrace of Japanese dress as exotic amusement would only reinforce the "alien" status of Japanese San Franciscans. This essay suggests not only the historical normativity of a multiplicity of masquerades existing in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, but also calls into question the naturalness of American immigrants adopting Western dress. In the face of Chinese San Franciscans who less visually incorporated American items into their dress, Japanese abandonment of their ethnic dress might prove odd indeed.


Finally, juxtaposing theatrical gender impersonators with Japanese immigrants forges additional links between queer theory and ethnic studies scholarship. While queer theorists question the very foundational categories of power, gender, and sexuality in ethnic studies scholarship, they have conversely been criticized for their inability to address issues of race and apply their discursive theories on the material world. (3) Indeed, after the disassembling of categories, queer theory may appear to have little practical application. Scholarship on race, on the other hand, takes for granted fundamental categories of enfranchised and disenfranchised, men and women, white and nonwhite to address more pressing questions of social inequalities. Moreover, individuals at the turn of the century hardly questioned how their gender or race might be socially constructed. For many it might seem anachronistic to graft postmodern theories of sexuality and gender onto people of the past.

Yet que(e)rying Japanese immigrant dress, interrogating and questioning its normalcy in the face of accepted gender impersonators, illustrates not only the most obvious--how gender and racial categories operated differently in one moment of time--but also suggests the less decipherable intimate issue of how and why one method of accessing power and passing proved acceptable and others did not. Unquestionable categories of gender would allow for some degree of acceptance of male and female crossings, while embattled categories of race and its attending privileges foregrounded the confinement of Japanese in a nonwhite racial category. Ironically, daily realities demonstrated how crossing gender appeared much more possible than traversing the indelible marker of race. Gender impersonators for the most part passed and profited. Japanese immigrants, despite their Western dress, failed to convince the city or the nation of their "American" status and suffered from individualized assaults as well as larger discriminatory measures that restricted their economic livelihood. While both groups used the potential power of masquerades to imagine themselves beyond the constraints of their physical bodies, only one convinced the American public to believe in its alternate identity. As a city openly discussing its varied gender expressions and diverse ethnicities for a brief window at the turn of the century, San Francisco proved to be a productive location to examine the concurrent development of gender and racial ideologies.


When Mary Marble crooned onstage in man-drag, she existed as one of many actors who acceptably crossed into different genders on stage. Gender impersonators were popular theatrical specialties across the country. (4) Particularly in San Francisco, gender impersonators took on aesthetic significance. More than just a prank, appearing on stage as a different sex signaled an impressive skill that drew praise from local reviewers. While the popularity of such performances appeared to signal an acceptance of fluidity in gender categories, additional representation of cross-dressing in the local press and in the courts revealed how rigid ideas of gender in fact undergirded San Francisco's delight in gender illusionists.

At first glance, the broad popularity and praise of gender impersonators in local publications seemed to signal gender fluidity, in the theatrical world at the very least. Reviews and representations of these performances frequently appeared in the city dailies such as the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Call, and the San Francisco Examiner. Widely circulated literary serials published outside the city, such as the Overland Monthly, elaborated not just on local performances but also on intriguing international events. The lesser-known Wasp Magazine, a local illustrated magazine of satire devoted to the local arts, regularly addressed several pages of its weekly to gender impersonations. Finally, theater records such as playbills, scripts, promotional material, and other items showed how gender impersonations on stage served as a serious aesthetic endeavor.

Local newspapers expressly commended crowd-drawing male and female impersonators as a popular form of entertainment. In 1897, a young man with very "shapely legs" skipped across stage at the Columbia Theater. The Chronicle's theater critic described the play, Devil's Auction, as "capital entertainment," especially since the young man, in fact, was a woman. (5) At the Columbia Theater, "Stuart," the famous female impersonator, graced the stage in the production of 1492. (6) In 1899, the Wasp praised Gladys Montague, the "champion cake walker and male impersonator of the Pacific Coast," who at seven years of age held a collection of medals. (7) Mary Marble herself reflected the popularity and utility of gender impersonation in performance. In a previous 1898 play, Marble, along with four other women actors, appeared in male attire at the Columbia Theater in A Milk White Flag. (8)

Moreover, critics praised gender impersonators as art, rather than regarding it as ridiculous comedy. In 1900, two curly-headed boys, Ellis and Edwin Smedley, enacted the tragic romance between Romeo and Juliet. The Call praised the "clever chaps" for their clarity and sincerity in acting. "Adult actors could take a lesson from them." (9) The Chronicle also commended Walter Leon, only eight years old, for his recitations, all given with the poses, mannerisms, and characteristic expressions of a little girl. "He is a strikingly handsome youngster [with] long golden curls. Gowned after the most approved feminine style, with his pretty ringlets fluffing about his delicate face, the clever little fellow will go through his really artistic work with perfect self-possession." (10) When the Overland Monthly's Dora Amsden applauded men costumed as women in Japanese Noh Theater, she explicitly used the language of art as she described the Japanese male actors with "slender nut brown fingers" hypnotizing the audience as they balanced their personas between the masculine and feminine. She recounted how the spectators went "wild with excitement" and flung their personal accessories and clothes they wore at the feet of their favorite. She praised "Genoski, the great female personator, whose face has the delicate contour of the aristocratic Japanese woman." Though Amsden may have articulated Orientalist sentiments of Japan as a nation imbued with feminine gentility, she highlighted its refinement in its gender performance. (11) She privileged the theater by comparing it to the Delphic Oracles, Shakespeare, and theater of the Grecian days. (12) In these artistically acclaimed performances, successful passing into a different gender remained fundamental.

Sympathetic portrayals of women wearing male attire in local newspapers seemed to signal acceptability of gender fluidity further. Neither strongly sensational nor pejorative, both the Call and the Chronicle might have appeared sensitive even by twenty-first century standards. Articles extolled these individuals and used pronouns that fit their immediate gender presentation. (13) The local dailies generally reported positively on women who wore male attire off the stage. In 1898, the Chronicle cited Mrs. William Kreiger, who attained local fame with her male attire. Despite initial notoriety, her community in Oakland quickly came to support her. The paper praised her as a "woman of great benevolence," "endear[ing]" to many. (14) In the previous year the Call praised twenty-two-year-old Clara Jensen's determination as a "full fledged knight of the road." Dressed in man's garb with a roll of blankets across her back, Jensen had footed it all the way from San Francisco to Fresno in April 1897. She was on her way to her parents' home in Fort Worth, Texas, after her husband of only one year had deserted her. (15)

For those who literally passed as men, reporters also wrote sympathetically. In 1897 the Chronicle put forth the idea that women should be allowed to ride racing horses, after a stable accident in England led doctors to discover an eighteen-year-old stable groom was a woman. The stable owner himself declared that it would be advantageous for women to race because of their light weight and devotion to the horses. (16) In the same year, Billy Johnson likewise received praise from both the Call and Chronicle for his "correct life," chopping and cording wood for money between jobs, despite his "tramping" lifestyle in a "dusty roads fraternity." Newspapers described Johnson as "good looking" and "affable." Johnson had been fired from a previous restaurant job when the owner's wife suspected something awry with his "smooth face" and "graceful movement." In their article, the Chronicle markedly referred to Johnson as "he" until "she" pleaded guilty to the charge of impersonation. (17)

While articles generally appeared receptive of real-life gender crossings in language, their very appearance in local publications may have signaled their primary worth as potent curiosities that would draw readers. The frequent portrayals in the local press then may have more accurately reflected publishers' capitalizing on gender fluidity's oddity rather than accepting it. In a favorable article on Babe Bean, a woman reporter who lived as a man, the Chronicle wrote, "The Stockton Mall has a special writer who is a curiosity in more respects than one." (18) Additionally, when three men and one woman robbed a bank, the Chronicle headline read "Woman Bandit in Male Attire." While the text of the article detailed only the robbery itself, the curiosity of a woman in male attire headlined the heist. The Chronicle likely hoped to profit from the titillation of a cross-dresser in a story about a perhaps otherwise usual bank robbery. (19)

The one derisive article depicting women passing as men revealed rigid boundaries of gender. In the retelling of Babe Bean's 1897 train accident in the Chronicle, the headline read "Miss Bean Not an Up to Date Young Man" and accused Bean of "trying to play the boy" by jumping off the train as it was moving. The article underlined Bean's feminine sex in light of her failed attempts at masculinity, which in turn highlighted the discrete categories of male and female in which Bean lived. (20) Additionally, even the clearly favorable reports subtly revealed how specific characteristics could be appropriate to only one sex. The Call praised male impersonator Alice Condon's performance on stage. For example, the fourteen-year-old's "strong," "true" voice and pleasing "carrying" quality made her "naturally adapted" for gender transformation. The "Native Daughter Should Have Been a Boy," the headline declared. (21)

Furthermore, illustrated representations of gender blurring or confusion more often became sites of comedy or ridicule rather than art. A 1900 full-page pictorial in the Call, titled "How San Francisco Notables Look in Theatrical Roles," assigned fourteen dignified urbanites to female bodies. Heads of San Francisco notables such as Judge W.W. Morrow, Mayor Phelan, David Starr Jordan, and Joaquin Miller perched atop bodies of famous female theatrical roles such as Cleopatra, Juliet, Cinderella, and Lady Macbeth. (22) As rugged bearded faces sat atop female gowned bodies, the jarring images more likely entertained readers by the misplaced juxtaposition rather than portraying a well-regarded aesthetic.

In an 1898 cartoon in the Wasp, Hannibal Flirtatious became the butt of a joke when he approached from behind an individual he believed to be a woman. As he stepped up to offer her an umbrella, he thought to himself, "Ah hah! I'll just ask that beauty to get in out of the wet." When she turned around, she revealed herself to be a male porter. The porter responded, "Naw, I don't want no umbrella, I'm waterin' dere plant see." Flirtatious jumped back in horror, dropping his umbrella and monocle. He was indeed "disillusioned," as the title of the cartoon read. (23) The humor that framed Hannibal Flirtatious's mistake defused the horror that gender fluidity might bring, the "wrong" gender in the pursuit of a romantic partner.

One illustrated frame in the Wasp on the newest fashion trends additionally demonstrated rigid categories of gender even in its most recent reconfiguration. "Where Shall the Line Be Drawn," read the title. Two women appeared, one in bloomers and a blazer and the other in a late Victorian dress. As they faced off, "Miss Primm" argued with "Miss Manly." While the labeling of the gowned woman as "Miss Primm" revealed disdain for lingering conservative dress, the articulation of "Miss Manly" equally revealed gender ideologies that had little tolerance for gender crossings. (24)

In a most telling cartoon in the Chronicle, individuals who did not necessarily fit discrete categories of male or female were derided. The strip titled "Personal Pronouns Up-to-date" displayed three frames of images that defined gender. The first frame pictured a woman smoking a cigarette, dressed in a jacket, blazer, necktie, and bloomers. She wore short hair and a tailored hat. Under her image sat the caption "She." The second frame showed a man in a jacket, collared shirt, belted knickers, and a driving hat. He clutched a golf club and the caption underneath read "He." In the final image appeared an individual in an overcoat, an oversized bowtie, and a derby hat. Underneath this third image read the caption "It." Those who fell outside even the most up-to-date versions of gender became dehumanized. (25)

The city's commitment to distinct gender presentations becomes clearer with a San Francisco city ordinance adopted in 1903 that prohibited cross-dressing. Section one noted, "It shall be unlawful for any person to appear, upon any public highway in the dress, clothing or apparel not belonging to or usually worn by his or her sex." Courts convicted violators of a misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of a $500 fine and six months in county jail. (26) Enactment of the code may have come as no surprise, because frequent articles on gender crossers and the rise of mannish attire in women's fashion likely aggravated anxieties. However, even before the law took effect, police had been arresting those who donned clothes of a different sex under laws that prohibited impersonation. When San Francisco detectives discovered Babe Bean was in fact a woman wearing male attire, Bean wound up at the police station explaining how traveling in trousers and a coat afforded "more protection than skirts." (27) Likewise, authorities arrested George Crowley when he wore his mother-in-law's dress and bonnet and accompanied his father-in-law to a nearby saloon. (28)

Thus San Franciscans to a large extent remained heavily invested in stable categories of male and female. Their beliefs perhaps coincided with a national consensus that supported discrete biological and moral definitions of male and female. (29) During this "golden age of impersonation," performers probably reinforced notions of polarized gender difference. Actors marketed themselves as magicians, performing the unimaginable feat of crossing into the role of the opposite sex. Gender cross-dressing sold as "magic" drew audiences who firmly believed in innate differences between the sexes. Social acceptance of performances such as that of the nationally acclaimed cross-dresser Julian Eltinge relied on this fundamental assumption that an impossible divide existed between men and women. (30) Though their physical performances seemed to muddy gender categories, men and women who impersonated the opposite sex in the early twentieth century did not profoundly challenge contemporary notions of gender among the middle-class audiences who enthusiastically and comfortably enjoyed their productions. Instead, these socially acceptable performances in San Francisco likely mirrored and solidified existing gender norms as serious demonstrations of ideal femininity and masculinity.


As female and male impersonators profited by crossing apparently impermeable categories of gender, so Japanese immigrants donning Western dress or youfuku less successfully crossed into what they believed to be more permeable categories of "American." (31) Immigration records, newspaper images, family pictures, group photographs, and individual portraits trace Japanese adoption of youfuku, reflecting immigrants' hopes of gaining acceptance in the United States. Their dress diverged significantly from that of their Japanese contemporaries in Japan who customarily wore Japanese dress or wafuku. While upper-class men in Japan increasingly adopted Western style as a new trend signifying education and high culture, the vast majority in Japan remained in wafuku. (32) As Japanese San Franciscans recorded themselves on film, they participated in an American fascination with photography that had recently become accessible to the middle classes as well. Though the Western images did not depict the most up-to-date in American fashion or format, they nonetheless demonstrated their subjects' dedication to, if not success in, being perceived as "American."

Photographs of immigrants arriving at Angel Island Immigration Station before disembarking at San Francisco show that most individuals landed wearing Japanese rather than Western dress. (33) Without access to a clothier or beauty salon for a San Francisco coif, they remained in Japanese style or wafuku while being detained. In photographs documenting Angel Island, large numbers of Japanese women appeared in Japanese dress. In carefully crafted photographs, Japanese women posed in kimonos held together with neatly tied obi. In candid pictures, Japanese women in traditional hairstyles and wafuku stood overlooking the cove or on the roof of the administration building at Angel Island. (34) Interestingly, soon after authorities released women from the immigration detention center, Japanese women appeared in one- or two-piece skirt and dress ensembles. Several Issei, the first generation of Japanese to arrive in the United States, recalled a visit to the Western clothier shop as one of their first destinations after landing in San Francisco. In the group of recently arrived Japanese in Golden Gate Park, all posed in Western dress. (35)

In a thirty-eight-page spread congratulating Japan's military prowess in the annexation of Korea, the Chronicle included articles on the Japanese in the city as well as across the Pacific. A full-page pictorial displayed portraits of twenty-five "men of prominence" in the "local Japanese colony." All the men had their hair cropped short, appropriate to contemporary styles, and all wore Western suits. Nineteen of the twenty-five also dignified their visages by sporting the bushy mustache common among Americans in the early 1900s. (36) Brief captions accompanied the photographs detailing advanced degrees from prestigious universities. (37) Clearly all these men fit ideal American male aesthetics in their style if not in their skin color.

Family portraits consistently revealed wives and mothers wearing Western dress. (38) Parents also dressed children in Western clothes. Kay and Sawako Tsuchiya, two and five years old, wore dresses with trimmed collar and sleeves, holding delicately dressed dolls. A big white bow held Sawako's hair. (39) In a 1915 portrait, a cook and his wife who labored at the Leonard home on Fulton Street also posed in Western dress. While the man wore a suit, the woman wore a high-necked dress and puffed white hat that resembled a giant cotton ball. (40) Additionally, a 1922 photo of David Fukuda at one hundred days old pictured him in a white trimmed dress, an outfit reflecting lingering Victorian norms. (41)

Even in environments that specifically promoted Japanese culture, photographs revealed participants in Western clothes. In a 1909 photo of the Japanese language school on Sutter Street, adults and children wore appropriately gendered Western garb. (42) An illustration of a group of men at a kendo club showed Japanese men dressed in Western suits or protective kendo gear. Their collective identity based on ethnicity and culture proved important to the members, not only in their regular meetings for language or kendo training, but also in the taking of the group photograph. (43) Their cultural solidarity, however, did not motivate the men to wear Japanese garb. None wore wafuku in the group photograph. (44)

At wedding ceremonies as well, brides increasingly wore Western style wedding dresses, not flowing kimonos. In the Ichikawa wedding portrait, the groom wore a white bow tie and long tuxedo jacket, while the bride donned a frilly white dress with delicate trim. A veil, an elaborate hairpiece, and white gloves accessorized her outfit. Flowers bedecked her Mary-Jane shoes. (45) Some couples did exhibit more cultural fusion. In these cases, grooms typically wore tuxedos, but some women wore the more traditional black wedding kimonos. Even for these brides, though, a Western bridal hairpiece and a veil topped their ensembles. One bride wore white gloves with her wedding kimono. For many of the wedding portraits the only item "Japanese" besides the ethnicity of the individuals themselves may have been the decorative cherry blossoms that often accessorized the photo shoot. (46)

Japanese women also participated in the national trends of portraiture for young American society women. Beauty shots akin to debutante portfolios celebrated blossoming young womanhood. Photography studios such as Motoyoshi and Moriyama in Japantown developed headshots for young women to distribute among friends and family. Hana Ohama wore a lacy white dress, white gloves, and a hat with a big plume hanging over the side. As she sat upright, her positive posture pushed her breasts forward while her hands rested in her lap. (47) Kikuye Okuye's gloved fingers supported her slightly tilted head at the chin. Her dress fell across her shoulders to form a "V" down her front, where it was fastened with a brooch. (48) An additional photograph from the Uakahara family presented a profile of a woman peering out the window as she gently pulled back the curtain. Bedecked in a lacy beaded dress that flowed to the floor, she wore a white flower in her short wavy hair parted to the side. A large diamond ring conspicuously enveloped her left ring finger. (49)

For Japanese San Franciscans, their Western clothing probably reflected their efforts to gain American acceptance. Japanese Americanist Yuji Ichioka noted that Issei community leaders and Japanese government officials detailed a policy of fitting into its American population, which included dress. (50) Historian Eiichiro Azuma similarly noted that the Japanese community grew fearful of white American conflation of Chinese and Japanese into the same group. At the turn of the century, Chinese and Japanese who already shared a history of warfare hardly thought of themselves as allies, even in anti-Asian California, where both groups became targets of discrimination with little distinction between the two. Japanese government officials and other elites explicitly denounced "uncivilized" Japanese who lacked Western appearance and compared them unfavorably with the Chinese. (51) Migrating Japanese additionally left a home country where print media had already popularized narratives of "self-made men" such as Andrew Carnegie, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Many young Japanese hoped to project these images of underprivileged, ambitious men who succeeded in rising from "empty pockets to millionaires" or "log cabin to the presidency." Part of achieving this goal meant adopting the very American dress that these self-made heroes wore. (52)

An 1899 Togasaki family portrait eloquently portrayed the aspirations of Japanese immigrants as they sought to enjoy a piece of the American pie. The young father wore a suit and tie, while the wife wore a dress with black plumed hat. The two children also wore Western clothes. Yet more telling than merely the Western-style clothes themselves were the detail and finishing touches of the children's presentations. The small boy donned an outfit reminiscent of a U.S. soldier's uniform. Both children clutched American flags. For Asian immigrants unable to naturalize, traditional symbols of American citizenship and nationalism, the U.S. flag and participation in the military, proved particularly ironic. (53)

Japanese immigrants who took great pride in their national origin less likely hoped to become actual white Americans and more likely hoped to take great advantage of American privileges. The Japanese in exodus at the turn of the century considered themselves to be both "emigrating" and "colonizing." Japanese immigrants who strove for acceptance and success on the West Coast remained invested in their Japanese identity, and their desire to assimilate then became a part of expressing Japanese nationalism. (54) In masquerade, they hoped for equal access to opportunities that racism would deny based on appearances that associated them as outsiders. For the Japanese, their masquerades became a more serious act of fitting into a city often fearful of the unfamiliar. They existed as mindful masquerades, constructed thoughtfully rather than arising "naturally" from living in San Francisco in hopes of acquiring their American dream. (55)

Notably, Japanese self-representations on film may have been not completely "American" in form. According to historian Alan Trachtenberg, American photographers had established a distinct sitting protocol for portraiture by the 1870s. Though the middle-class daguerreotype portraits from an earlier time hoped to capture bodies without regard to composure, by the late nineteenth century photographers moved to overcome the "intractable countenance," the face that would not "relax or mellow or glow with 'expression.'" In the late nineteenth century, photographer W. S. Haley explicitly instructed that "[the] posture of person sitting for the portrait should be easy and unconstrained; the feet and hands neither projecting too much, nor drawn too far back; the eyes should be directed a little sideways above the camera, and fixed upon some object there, but never upon the apparatus since this would tend to impart to the face a dolorous, dissatisfied look." Photographer Albert S. Southworth elaborated the chief goal of the portrait as a look of animation, intelligence, inner character. The photographed should will themselves into a desired expression that matched their self-image and look anywhere but into the lens. (56)

However, few of Japanese San Franciscans' photographs from the early twentieth century displayed animation or mood-inspiring manipulation. Sitters sat stiffly, stared directly into the camera with an expressionless face, and presented what Haley undoubtedly would have criticized as an "intractable countenance." Though Japanese dressed in Western clothes, their poses for the most part remained frozen in a time that preceded 1900s San Francisco by at least two decades. Their poses may have replicated sitting styles of their picture-taking cohorts in Japan. In a photographic expose by clothing scholars Etsuji Tanida and Mitsue Koike, images of Japanese in Japan from the 1890s and early 1900s all revealed expressionless faces staring directly into the camera. (57)

Japanese American portraiture appeared more conservative in content as well as form. Immigrant women did not appear in the most current styles during the earliest years of the twentieth century. Western dress for Japanese women meant enacting more traditional styles of American dress. While the city's trendiest female dressers donned fashionable bloomers, blazers, neckties, and vests that some commentators criticized as "mannish," Japanese women in San Francisco had themselves photographed in late Victorian gowns. More than just conservative, these outfits may have struck some San Franciscans as outdated in these more "modern" times of the "New Woman." (58) For the immigrant Japanese, dressing "American" more likely meant capturing an imagined, obviously occidental, aesthetic rather than keeping up with the most recent and sometimes hair-raising styles.


As Japanese sought to abandon Japanese dress, San Francisco whites in fact embraced the kimono in literary and visual imagery as well as embodiment. While white writers eroticized Japanese women clothed in Japanese style, white women in particular clamored to dress Japanese. Articles of Japanese femininity appealed to white San Franciscans at a time when the meaning of womanhood was changing. Japanese womanhood symbolized a "lost" femininity in the shadow of the "New Woman." The ideal of Japanese femininity enhanced whites' personal lives on a very public level. (59) San Franciscans sympathetic to Japanese aesthetics would ask Japanese acquaintances to wear kimonos, as well. These demands ultimately imposed a second kind of cross-dressing on Japanese immigrants, reminding them of the alien status they sought to overcome.

Beginning in the mid-1890s, contributors to the Overland Monthly frequently set what they believed to be desirable Japanese traditional femininity in contrast to that of "American" women. In 1906 Charles Lorrimer described Japanese women as "rare exotics" with more patience than American girls. (60) Celebrations of Japanese women appeared in magazines, journals, and newspapers. In photographs, "pretty teahouse girls" dressed in kimonos gazed innocently into the camera. In poetry and short stories, "sweet" and "doll-like" Japanese women in "soft kimono" and "silken zori" arose from mystical settings such as a "tiny garden." Narratives wove tales of romantic love between Japanese women and white men that would nearly always end in the death of the Japanese women. Even in tragic endings, short stories would evoke the kimono, as the Japanese woman, for example, collapsed into a "bundle of silk." (61) Furthermore, in Olive Dilbert's 1907 short story of a Japanese woman's fall to doom, the protagonist Umeko-san wore Western dress as she deserted her more traditional husband for a more Western man. Wearing a big white plumed hat, Umeko sashayed out the door to run off with Satsumoto-san, a smooth talker who expounded on the virtues of divorce and women's independence. (62)

White women essayists also articulated Japanese women's sexual desirability while invoking Japanese feminine dress. While writers such as Hester A. Benedict spun smooth romances between a white male protagonist and a Japanese woman, others such as Grace Hibbard and Gertrude Holloway wrote of desiring Japanese women in the first person without the cover of a male pseudonym. Hibbard wrote a poem lamenting the affection of a Japanese woman, describing her as an exotic beauty. Holloway also wrote of carefully courting a Japanese woman, secretly desiring a kiss. Descriptions of flowing silk in these writings implicitly pointed to Japanese dress. Some included an even more explicit visual, including an illustration of a Japanese woman in a kimono, to accompany their writing. (63)

Despite the obvious homoeroticism of a white woman's longing for a Japanese woman, same-sex sexuality likely never entered the imagination for much of heteronormative San Francisco. No public cultural discourse on desire in terms of explicit heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or any sexual identity existed at the turn of the century. Underground literature on same-sex sexuality circulated in the United States with little notice from larger society. (64) Thus, the gender-impersonating Smedley twin boys could reenact a Shakespearean love story with little outrage over the sexual subtext of same-sex sexuality as well as incest. (65) Still, as innocent as performances of women declaring love for another woman may have appeared, they carried great potential for alternative readings during a time when "romantic friendships" between middle- and upper-class white women appeared relatively common. (66) These works reflected a web of romanticism about Japanese femininity that served not only the men who leafed through the Wasp but also the white women who may have desired to engage intimately in Japanese femininity. (67)

At afternoon teas, affluent San Franciscans threw parties dressed in kimonos. Japanese luncheons became intensely popular among society women weary of the monotony of English-style afternoon teas and matinee lunches. White women took great care in accessorizing their homes and bodies for these afternoon events. In full Japanese garb from the sandals to the haori, party-goers chatted and ate "suimono," "yakizakana," "sashimi," or a light snack with "kuchitorimono" and "chawan mori." (68) Items from the "Orient," including teacups from Turkey or China and even servants "only from Japan," added a distinct flavor to tea parties that left guests raving for days. (69) Department stores known for their "honest values," such as Marks Brothers on Market Street, kept their prices competitive for the popular trend by slashing their "lawn kimonas," normally fifty cents, to nineteen cents. (70)


Moreover, Japanese femininity enhanced American womanhood, even its most "classy" form. In 1907, Lady Teazle of the San Francisco Chronicle outlined the lives of rich and dignified women of the Bay Area on her "Society Chat" page. In addition to her usual reports outlining the accomplishments of local society women, one day she featured large pictures of two women in her full-page column. One youthful brunette in her twenties, Mrs. B. O. Bruce, wore a tennis outfit and carried a racket while posing in front of the net. The other, Mrs. J. Parker Whitney, a heavier, silver-haired woman, posed stoically, clothed in more elegant attire. Sandwiched between these society women and serving as a backdrop to the two photographs, a drawing of a Japanese woman in a kimono sprouted from an enlarged flower. She daintily held a rice paper umbrella over her shoulder as the rising sun of imperial Japan radiated behind her. Although Lady Teazle had not included even a sentence on an upper-class Japanese woman in San Francisco, she evoked the image of Japanese feminine gentility in the use of a Japanese woman in the backdrop. For Teazle and perhaps many of the well-to-do people of San Francisco, a Japanese woman's femininity represented an ideal that even white society women could not evoke. (71)

Japanese San Franciscans wearing kimonos proved to be a pleasing attraction for city elites enraptured with Japanese aesthetic. The San Francisco Women's Board of Foreign Missions sent Japanese American community leader Yonako Abiko a letter requesting that she wear her kimono when she volunteered for a weekend excursion in Bolinas. "I trust that you will find it convenient to take with you the Japanese costume. It will add so much to the joy of the girls." (72) In truth, wearing a kimono with its delicate fabric, many layers, and multiple ties around the waist would almost never be "convenient." Still, Abiko appeared familiar with this type of attention. When Abiko embarked on a cruise in 1907, the international passengers began applauding upon her entry into the grand ball. She had worn a kimono at the request of her fellow passengers. (73) European friends as well constantly raved about the beauty of the kimonos. Margherita Palmieri wrote:</p> <pre> I scarcely need to tell you how pleased I should be to have [your photograph] in your pretty national costume if you have one to spare. In fact I am wearing one at this moment, and I think you would be rather amused if you could see it, as I was not able to get one thin enough for summer wear I have had one made of art muslin such as they use for curtains and I have made two paper chrysanthemums for my hair! (74) </pre> <p>In perhaps a more unusual request among men, Western writer Charles Warren Stoddard expressed disappointment when Japanese immigrant poet Yone Noguchi appeared before him in a shirt and tie rather than a kimono. (75) For Japanese immigrants who purposely wore Western dress in their daily lives, fulfilling requests to wear kimonos became an obligatory second cross-dressing that underlined their visibly Japanese origin.

Probably few, if any, white women wanted to become ethnically Japanese. Even fewer would have believed that in wearing Japanese dress their race might be perceived as Japanese. Yet, many of the middle and upper classes embraced the signifiers of Japanese womanhood to enhance their own lives amid shifting gender trends. As the "New Woman" posed potential dangers of masculinizing women, white women enacted romantic femininity by incorporating gendered Japanese bodies into their own lives, which remained securely white. Masquerades provided a way to express desire and fantasy, as San Franciscans hoped to enhance their most personal dimensions. For Japanese San Franciscans who hoped to be recognized as American with all of its attending privileges, Japanese dress imagined, enacted, and at times requested by whites no doubt reminded Japanese residents of their insurmountable alien status.


While assimilationists might view adoption of Western clothes as the natural course of immigration, Japanese San Franciscans could also be construed as "queer," particularly in comparison to other immigrant groups who also had to undergo a distinct wardrobe change to accommodate American clothing mores. Chinese San Franciscans dressed less visually "American" than their Japanese counterparts by maintaining more of their Chinese clothing. Sinophobes focused on Chinese components of Chinese American dress to highlight their alien existence in America. Among the Chinese, community disdain for Western dress may have discouraged them from completely abandoning their ethnic dress, as did the Japanese. As Chinese in the city created clothing styles that reflected a fusion of both Western and Chinese influences, Japanese San Franciscans' wholesale absorption of Western dress might not appear so "natural" after all.

At Golden Gate Park and on the city sidewalks, Chinese men appeared with long queues, clothed in cotton tunics and Chinese shoes. On street corners and public benches, Chinese women wore matching pantsuit-like outfits and pulled their hair tightly back into neat buns. (76) In San Francisco, where men kept their hair cropped short and women wearing bloomers caused controversy, Chinese men wearing long braided queues and women wearing pants must have looked like a reversal of appropriate gender presentations.

While the wealthiest city inhabitants purchased exotic photographs of San Francisco Chinese from photographer Arnold Genthe, the less wealthy and the majority of the city participated in a more common discourse that poked fun at the odd Chinese. (77) In one 1901 illustrated satire in the Wasp, the Chinese queue became an "American plait" when a young white girl following a Chinese man eyed his queue, cut it off, and reattached it to her own head. In her appropriation of the Chinese queue, crossings became a mix of mockery, desire, and incorporation. In the image of a Chinese man wearing a gender marked braid, the cartoon likely underlined "odd" Chinese masculinity to white San Franciscans. (78) Through the last quarter of the twentieth century, short stories, newspaper accounts, and political propaganda in the San Francisco area evoked Chinese as a queer version of men. (79)

Many Chinese were aware of the negative impact of their obviously Chinese dress. One anonymous poet elaborated, "A loose gown with wide sleeves brings only scurrilous remarks. And it gets you nowhere, even if you are modern in education." (80) Attitudes toward Western dress held by the Chinese, who frequently associated it with sexual excess and immoral character, may have inhibited their adoption of such attire, despite the negative attention Chinese dress brought. In the Chinese newspaper Chung Sat Yat Po, Western dress often appeared in advertisements that offered remedies for sexually transmitted diseases. In December 1909, images of men wearing traditional Chinese clothing and advertisements sold goods and services in Chinese. On December 29, however, an ad appeared for "Scott's Santal Pepsin Capsules." In the top corner appeared a headshot of a very Western-looking man. Dignified in appearance, with cropped short hair and the requisite bushy mustache of the time, he wore a jacket with a collared shirt and tie. His race remained indiscernible. It was the only ad with the text appearing in both English and Chinese. "No cure, no pay," it read, "Curee quickly and permanently the worst cases of Gonorrhea and Gleet, no matter how long standing." For the Chinese, sexually transmitted diseases and their remedies held an American component articulated through the image of dress, style, and language. (81)

For writer Sui Sin Far, whom literary scholars have labeled the first Asian American writer, American dress signaled duplicitous character. (82) In her works from the turn of the century, only her Asian villains appeared often in Western dress. In "A Chinese Ishmael," Far depicts the villain as well-acculturated into white America. Lum Choy, a scarred man of little integrity who intends to pay a high bride price for Ku Yum, "curr[ied] the favor of white people," "w[ore] American clothes," and "when it suit[ed] his convenience passe[d] for a Japanese." Far's villain, Choy, notably in American dress, embodies a despicable man, adopting the image of Western masculinity through his attire. His duplicity is emphasized by his habit of passing as Japanese. (83)

Finally, poems in collected works published in San Francisco's Chinatown during the earliest years of the twentieth century reveal how American dress on Chinese women signified illicit sexual freedom. Western clothing incited ambivalent reactions among individuals who recognized both its sexually provocative qualities as well as its disregard for displaying "appropriate" Chinese femininity. "All dolled up. Strolling along the street. She's so elegant and sweet! She dresses half Chinese, half American, she ties her loose temple hair with a bright silk ribbon. She shows her fashion expertise, not her feminine disposition." The sex appeal of American gender presentation implicated prostitute-like qualities, as well. "We in the business of pleasing men must keep up with the trend.... Doll ourselves like beautiful American-borns; Surely the men will find us very pleasant." (84) For Chinese San Franciscans, cross-dressing into male or female American gender presentations held less than desirable connotations.

Still, as much as resident Chinese appeared alien to scrutinizing eyes, in fact their appearance embodied little of anything authentically or uniquely Chinese. Chinese San Franciscans' dress was not composed of wholly Chinese ensembles. Their outfits reflected a blend of the cultural influences that permeated San Francisco's Chinatown. In his detailed study of early San Francisco Chinatown photographs, historian John Kuo Wei Tchen observed that as alien as the Chinese seemed to white San Franciscans, the immigrants' physical appearance hardly reflected Chinese traditionalism. Photographs reveal the majority of the Chinese population in cotton tunic tops, cloth shoes, pants, and wide-brimmed hats. Though the tunics and cloth shoes came from China, the pants and Hamburg style felt hats did not. While Chinese immigrants did indeed adopt bits and pieces of American dress, such as wide-brimmed hats, they remained for the most part visibly Chinese to the San Francisco eye. (85) Sadly, anti-Chinese sentiment would not disappear with a mere wardrobe change. Western dress would have brought no substantive benefits from xenophobes who would have easily found another characteristic to condemn as Chinese intractability. For those Chinese who found comfort largely within San Francisco Chinatown, any shifts to more drastically abandon Chinese dress and risk alienation would have made less than perfect sense.

Interestingly, whereas scholars of Chinese America such as Judy Yung and John Kuo Wei Tchen never explain perhaps the more "natural" phenomena of retaining cultural markers in clothing, Japanese American historians such as Yuji Ichioka and Eiichiro Azuma take time to elucidate the adoption of Western dress among Japanese immigrants. If these scholars' decisions to dwell on certain transformations and not on others are any indication of which events are more worthy of explanation, then Japanese San Franciscans and their pervasive American masquerades might have been a unique immigrant phenomenon. Additional research by Barbara Kawakami, Daniel Masterson, and Sayako Funada-Classen also suggest that Japanese immigrants in Hawaii and Latin America during the same period largely chose to maintain Japanese dress when plantation work did not dictate what they could wear. (86) Though urban xenophobes declared the Chinese and their Chinese dress odd, Japanese San Franciscans may have in fact proved queer in their American masquerades. Moreover, que(e)rying Japanese immigrants' Western dress, questioning it and also highlighting its potentially odd nature in the face of other immigrants who did not shed their ethnic dress, draws attention to the assumptions and perhaps unfair expectations we continue to put on our newer Americans.

Still, even if San Francisco Japanese deliberately dressing Western proved odd, their masquerades became a very real and perhaps "natural" part of their identities--a mindful presentation of themselves that reflected the hardships they experienced in America. Their location in an urban setting, within a largely white American population, and their desire to gain equal access to privileges of American citizenship could logically add up to Western dress. Youfuku in San Francisco remained a clothing style borne out of the conflict inherent to Asian life in America and almost immediately became an ordinary part of Japanese immigrants' identity.


In the early twentieth century, gender and cultural impersonations existed in many forms and held various implications. Collectively, they illuminated the ways individuals used gender and sexual imagination to enhance their lives and create identities that physical bodies limited or to enact desires that social proscriptions prohibited. (87) Theatrical gender impersonators drew audiences by magically defying gender. Women who wore men's clothes in daily life accessed traditionally male spheres of public life. Urban whites sought to "color" themselves for entertainment, as they enacted Asian personae. For the Japanese who dressed Western, cross-dressing represented their hopes of accessing the "American dream" during xenophobic times. Masquerades appeared to have positive value as acts of self-determination.

Yet taken apart, gender impersonations carried implications distinct from those of race. While categories of gender appeared immutable, San Franciscans appeared less threatened at the theatrical gender crossings which appeared as magic. Both theatrical and daily gender masquerades enjoyed a degree of acceptability in which participants effectively passed. In theater, actors drew sold-out audiences and respectable fame. Individuals such as Mrs. William Krieger and Babe Bean enjoyed aspects of work and leisure that would have been unavailable to them in female dress. (88) While municipal laws prohibited wearing clothes of a different sex, those who dressed across gender profited to some degree.

Similarly, Japanese San Franciscans hoped to access privileges by passing as American through more conventional forms of cross-dressing. Their attire, though, held little novelty. Japanese immigrants' Western transformation on the streets of San Francisco hardly raised an eyebrow. Still, the social normalcy of a specific masquerade did not necessarily bring its due privileges, nor did it signal a successful crossing. While turn-of-the-century San Francisco remained largely mystified and complimentary about gender crossings, they perceived American masquerades by Asians as hardly impressive. (89) So banal would the course of assimilation appear that those who resisted it, such as the Chinese, would come under fire for their intractable alienness.

Notably, race-based impersonations in theater diverged significantly in their intent than did those of gender. While the success of gender crossing relied heavily on its authentic presentation, racial impersonation drew audiences precisely for its fictional mockery. In 1900 Little Blanche Trelease impressed audiences with her "laughable Chinese imitations" in Brownies in Fairyland. (90) In productions such as The Geisha, The Mikado, and First Born, all marked as "comedy," narratives mocked and infantilized Chinese as well as Japanese. Other cities, such as London, New York, and Chicago, criticized unfair depictions in theater, some going as far as to ban specific productions out of respect for the Japanese government. Japanese immigrant poet Yone Noguchi noted, "The vogue of the Mikado or the Geisha, a comic opera, made my true Japanese heart pained, as I thought it was a blasphemy against Japan; how often I wished to shout from the pit or gallery on its absurdity." (91) In their pejorative parody of Chinese and Japanese individuals, San Francisco whites seemed to care little about what Asians in America might think.

As different as gender and race impersonations appeared to be, they resemble each other in their relationship to power. As categories of gender and its access to power grew increasingly unstable through the 1920s, gender ambiguity appeared more threatening. Men obsessed with their masculinity more actively defended it against the rising tide of white-collar work, educated women, and female activists. Unconventional gender presentations grew more explicitly linked to "homosexuality" in popular thought. (92) Biographer Louis Sullivan noted that when Babe Bean found it increasingly unacceptable to be a "biological woman living as man," she changed her name to Jack Bee Garland to remake herself more deliberately as a man. (93) With the disintegration of "separate spheres," female impersonation no longer could appear as baffling and thrilling acts of pure magic. During the 1920s, impersonators increasingly became viewed as deviant performing homosexuals rather than as performance artists. By 1930 authorities banning theatrical cross-dressing forced most of America's thousands of female impersonators out of business. (94)

To xenophobic whites in 1900, however, unstable definitions of race may have proved more threatening than gender ambiguity. As more rigid categories of gender allowed gender impersonators to pass effectively and with approval, contestable legal categories of race appeared unstable, as evidenced by the constant reinforcement of nonwhiteness in the courts and in legislation. (95) As Japanese immigrants battled discriminatory naturalization laws, alien land laws, and antimiscegenation laws, white xenophobes likely sensed slippages in their hold on power and privilege. Ironically, visual categories of gender proved much more permeable than Japanese who remained marked "Mongoloid," even in Western dress. (96) As gender impersonators passed and profited, Japanese immigrants unable to pass successfully as "American" lost out. And though American xenophobes criticized the Chinese as unassimilable for their Chinese dress, they offered few favors to the Japanese for their Western dress.

As much as ethnic masquerades reinscribed relationships of racial power and gender and sexual normativity, they also unearthed the infinite contradictions embedded within the city's social hierarchies. (97) Though some local San Franciscans embraced the feminine kimono, Japanese in the city hardly felt welcomed by local residents. For Japanese San Franciscans, downplaying their ethnicity would prove to be one strategy of survival. For local whites, race would serve as a source of privilege to dabble in different cultures with few repercussions. (98) Fantasies of race and ethnicity may have additionally served as one vehicle for white men to express interracial romance and white women to express homoerotic as well as interracial desire. (99) Cultural critic Eric Lott thus noted how masquerades "became less of a repetition of power relations" and more of a "distorted mirror" that signified displacements and discontinuities and that illuminated a "peculiar American structure of racial feeling." Literary critic Laura Browder also highlighted the American tradition of "self-invention" and "testaments to the porousness of ethnic identity," particularly in California. (100)

Perhaps for some, identity proved porous. Yet for many more it did not. Precisely because limitations posed by biology and social proscriptions proved physically impermeable, San Franciscans resorted to their imaginations to escape or stretch social reality. Masquerades on many levels crossed various boundaries drawn by sociolegal prohibitions as well as physical bodies. As individuals committed these acts deliberately under the cover of social acceptability, masquerades revealed how imagination created viable virtual realities within constraining physical actualities. As much as racial categories and thus racial privileges appeared to constantly have potential for redefinition and redistribution, in fact its marker appeared more distinct and less permeable for the many San Franciscans who remained indelibly marked at the turn of the century. Scientists believed that innate characteristics distinguished not just men from women but also Chinese, Japanese, and African Americans from whites. (101) Though racial categories faced a legacy of public blurring through the contestations of language, biological reason, and mixed-race individuals, it would nonetheless be a racial fluidity more readily available for those who could pass as whites or even "dark white." (102)

For Japanese San Franciscans, their near future appeared more inflexible than for those who perceived California as a place of "porous ethnic identity." (103) After the enactment of the 1913 Alien Land Act, the first major anti-Japanese legislation in California banning Japanese land ownership and restricting their tenancy, the Japanese community began a new mission of assimilating Japanese immigrants. Titled gaimenteki doka or external assimilation, it required conforming physical appearance and environment to European American ways that paralleled what the "educated" Japanese had been advocating since the 1890s. By 1915 Japanese immigrant women passing through Angel Island most likely wore Western dress. When Michi Kawaii, an activist for the YWCA, visited California to educate herself on Japanese immigrants and their living conditions, she described picture brides as looking "queer," "for no one had told them their huge pompadours stuffed with 'rats' had long since gone out of style in America, and their efforts to beautify themselves with an excessive use of powders resulted only in giving an impression of uncleanness." (104) For Japanese who dressed in Western clothes, their masquerades signified only the beginning of a longer struggle between their optimism and the reality of overcoming a race-conscious society despite their visually marked bodies.


1. So popular did her musical number become that its song sheet appeared in the Musical Supplement Section of one San Francisco Examiner issue. Gustav Luders, "Rag Time Mixes My Brain," score, 1900, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco New Main Public Library, San Francisco.

2. Photograph of "recent arrivals" in Golden Gate Park, 1900, Issei Project, box 4, folder "Ogata, Shizuye," National Japanese American Historical Society, San Francisco. Hereafter, the project will be cited as the Issei Project.

3. For a brief overview of queer theory and critical race studies, see Annamarie Jagose, Queer Theory: An Introduction (New York: New York University Press, 1996); Kimberle Crenshaw et al., ed., Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement, with a foreword by Cornel West (New York: The New Press, 1995), and Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (New York: New York University Press, 2001). For criticism of queer theory, see E. Patrick Johnson, "'Quare' Studies, or (Almost) Everything I Know about Queer Studies I Learned from My Grandmother," Text and Performance Quarterly 21, no.1 (January 2001): 1-25.

4. Gender impersonations existed as a significant cultural phenomenon and had held a variety of social meanings since the Middle Ages if not earlier. In the United States specifically, racialized gender impersonations first took the nation by storm in the early nineteenth century through Vaudeville acts, including "blackface." For more on its history, see Valerie R. Hotchkiss, Clothes That Make the Man: Female-Cross Dressing in Medieval Europe (New York: Garland Publishing, 1996); Roger Baker, Drag: A History of Female Impersonation in the Performing Arts (New York: New York University Press, 1994); Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Robert Toll, On with the Show (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974).

5. "Entertainment in Play and Music," San Francisco Chronicle, January 19, 1897.

6. First Nighter, "The Theaters," Wasp, March 5, 1898, 19.

7. "Gladys Montague," Wasp, September 16, 1899, 6.

8. In A Milk White Flag, Ada Mansfield, Maud Harris, Eva Hill, and Ilma Pratt played the "messenger boys." "Mary Marble," Wasp, September 10, 1898, 13; Programme for A Milk White Flag, 1897, San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum, San Francisco.

9. "Two Clever Little Players," San Francisco Call, March 11, 1900.

10. While local publications similarly praised male and female impersonators with little distinction between the two, there appeared to be some anxiety regarding boys dressing up as girls on the New York stage. Though popular in San Francisco, New York authorities banned Leon's public performance. Boys impersonating girls appeared to be more of a novelty than the girls who dressed as boys. "The bright little girl in knickerbockers, impersonating the small boy, is familiar to the public, but the little boy arrayed in a frock and acting the part of a girl is something of a novelty." "A Boy Rival for Girl Actors," San Francisco Chronicle, February 14, 1897.

11. For more details on the definition and implication of Orientalism, see Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978).

12. Amsden points to Noh with its gender impersonators as notable art, with an aesthetic value that could only have originated in the West. "Once more we find a parallel with the ancient Grecian methods which will ever remain the supreme standard of art, and which the aesthetic Orient unconsciously assimilated." Dora E. Amsden, "Dramatic Art in Japan," Overland Monthly 36, no. 212 (1900): 100-107.

13. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD), founded in 1985, has been providing education to media on producing fair, accurate, and inclusive representation of individuals in the queer community. Two criteria among others include positive depictions and the appropriate use of pronouns that mark self-proclaimed gender identity rather than natal sex. GLAAD, "Media Resource Kit," (accessed July 7, 2005).

14. In a marital pact she had agreed to labor alongside her husband in the fields and other manual work. "Wore Male Attire for Years," San Francisco Chronicle, May 24, 1898.

15. Jensen had initially eloped with the man, who then took her to San Francisco before deserting her. "Goes as a Tramp in Man's Attire," San Francisco Call, April 5, 1897.

16. "Woman's New Occupation," San Francisco Chronicle, November 16, 1897.

17. "In Man's Attire This Girl Toiled," San Francisco Call, March 9, 1897; "Female Tramp in Male Attire--Peculiar Santa Rosa Case," San Francisco Chronicle, March 9, 1897.

18. "Babe Bean," San Francisco Chronicle, January 16, 1898.

19. "Woman Bandit in Men's Clothes," San Francisco Chronicle, August 22, 1897.

20. "Miss Bean Not an Up to Date Young Man," San Francisco Chronicle, August 31, 1897.

21. "Native Daughter Who Should Have Been a Boy," San Francisco Call, March 11, 1900.

22. "How San Francisco Notables Look in Theatrical Roles," San Francisco Call, February 1900.

23. "Disillusioned," Wasp, July 16, 1898, 20.

24. "Where Shall the Line Be Drawn," Wasp, August 12, 1897, cover.

25. "Personal Pronouns Up-To-Date," San Francisco Chronicle, June 27, 1897.

26. San Francisco General Ordinances (1915), ordinance no. 819.

27. "Wears Trousers But Her Tongue is Silent--A Mysterious Young Woman Who Lives in a River Ark at Stockton," San Francisco Call, August 24, 1897.

28. "Tried to Impersonate His Mother-In-Law," San Francisco Chronicle, November 15, 1897.

29. Peggy Pascoe described distinct gender roles based on innate differences between the sexes as facilitating missionary rescue homes. Peggy Pascoe, Relations of Rescue: The Search for Female Moral Authority in the American West, 1874-1939 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).

30. For more on the social significance of cross-dressing, see Marjorie Garber, Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety (New York: Routledge, 1992); Lesley Ferris, ed., Crossing the Stage: Controversies in Cross-Dressing, (New York: Routledge, 1992). For more on Julian Eltinge, see Sharon R. Ullman, Sex Seen: The Emergence of Modern Sexuality in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997).

31. My use of Western vis a vis Japanese dress might appear artificially imposed, since culture and therefore clothing is never constructed by an unchanging, essential set of values from a single source. Admittedly, cultures, clothing, and identities are constantly evolving and often have blurry origins in their "authentic" location. Yet I deliberately use perhaps theoretically contestable categories of Western versus Japanese dress by directly translating how the Japanese themselves described and continue to describe their clothes today. "Youfuku" means Western dress and "wafuku" signifies Japanese dress. What scholars might argue to be theoretically messy categories of labeling the culture upon dress made perfect sense for the Japanese. Thus, I employ them here.

32. Etsuji Tanida and Mitsue Koike explained that the lack of women adopting Western dress could be attributable to their lesser involvement in public life. Etsuji Tanida and Mitsue Koike, Nihon Fukushokushi, (Tokyo: Koseikan, 1989). See also Mainichi Shimbunsha, Sandai no Onnatachi (Tokyo: Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1981). Feminist scholars might argue that women perceived as the bearers of culture and tradition have historically been socially pressured not to adopt newer, nontraditional cultural trends.

33. Angel Island, often referred to as the Ellis Island of the West Coast, served as the immigration processing station for immigrants arriving along the Pacific Coast. Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung, Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 (San Francisco: Hoc Doi, 1980).

34. Photograph of Angel Island Immigration Station, 1912, Issei Project, box 1, folder "Angel Island Immigration Station--S.F., Record Group 90 of National Archives."

35. Photograph of Japanese Women at Angel Island, 1916, and photograph of "recent arrivals" in Golden Gate Park, 1900, Issei Project, box 1, folder "Angel Island."

36. The six who did not have mustaches appeared to be in their twenties, perhaps signaling a new facial hair aesthetic as documented by historian John Kasson. John F. Kasson, Rudeness and Civility: Manners in Nineteenth-Century Urban America (New York: Hill and Wang, 1990).

37. "Men of Prominence: Local Japanese Colony," San Francisco Chronicle, October 22, 1911.

38. Photograph of Iwata family, December 6, 1920, Issei Project, box 2, folder "Iwata, Buddy"; Portrait of Father and Daughter, 1913 Issei Project, box "Strength and Diversity, JA Women, Prewar years"; photographs of Abiko family, 1921, Abiko Family Papers, box 42, folder 4, Japanese American Research Project, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles. The Abiko Family Papers are hereafter cited as AFP.

39. Photograph of Kay Okamoto, 1911, Issei Project, box 4, folder "Okamoto, Kay."

40. Photograph of cook and his wife, 1915, Issei Project, box 1, folder "California Historical Society."

41. Photograph of David Fukuda, March 28, 1922, AFP, box 42, folder 2.

42. Photograph of Japanese language school, 1909, Issei Project, box 1, folder "California Historical Society."

43. Philip Stokes noted group photos demonstrated a greater need to mark solidarities, to take every possible step to map the forms of one's personal society. Philip Stokes, "The Family Photograph Album: So Great a Cloud of Witnesses," in The Portrait in Photography, ed. Graham Clarke (London: Reaktion Books, 1992), 193-205.

44. "How Japanese Warriors Are Made," San Francisco Call, January 17, 1897.

45. Photograph of Ichikawa wedding, February 28, 1915, AFP, box 43, folder 1.

46. Interestingly, even the blossoms could be arguably inauthentic as they appeared to be artificial. Photographs of wedding, July 11, 1916? AFP, box 43, folder 1.

47. Photograph of Hana Ohama, February 12, 1912, Issei Project, box 4, folder "Ohama, Geo."

48. Photograph of Kikuye Okuye, October 4, 1915, AFP, box 43, folder 3.

49. Portrait from M. Uakahara, March 1921, AFP, box 44, folder 3.

50. Things Japanese had to be "eschewed" as much as possible. Outward appearances of how Americans perceived Japanese couples became important as officials advised wives to walk alongside their husbands rather than behind to avoid reinforcing the stereotype of the tyranny of Japanese husbands. Yuji Ichioka, The Issei: The World of First Generation Japanese Immigrants: 1885-1924 (New York: The Free Press, A Division of Macmillan, 1988).

51. Eiichiro Azuma, "Interstitial Lives: Race, Community, and History among Japanese Immigrants Caught between Japan and the United States, 1885-1941" (PhD diss., University of California at Los Angeles, 2000), 87. See also Eiichiro Azuma, Between Two Empires: Race, History, and Transnationalism in Japanese America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

52. Ibid., 48.

53. Photograph of Togasaki Family, 1899, Issei Project, box 4.1, folder "Togasaki, Family." The Nationality Act of 1790 limited the privilege of naturalization to "any alien, being a free white person." Asians, not being white, could become citizens only if they were born in the United States.

54. Azuma, "Interstitial Lives," 87.

55. Homi Bhabha described "mimicry" as being like a camouflage, not a harmonization of a repression of difference, but a form of resemblance that differs from or defends its presence through display. Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994), 85.

56. Alan Trachtenberg, Reading American Photographs: Images as History, Matthew Brady to Walker Evans (New York: Hill and Wang, 1989), 26, 27.

57. Tanida and Koike, Nihon Fukushokushi.

58. For more on the "New Woman," see Jean V. Matthews, The Rise of the New Woman: The Women's Movement in America, 1875-1930 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003).

59. Though writers used Japanese femininity the most frequently to discuss American womanhood, South Asians also appeared as models of ideal womanhood, particularly as relations with Japanese became more tense in the decades following the earliest years of the twentieth century. For example, see Jean Q. Watson and Frances L. Brown, "The Partheneia of University of California," Overland Monthly 67, no. 5 (May 1916): 359-364. When young San Francisco men of elegant leisure and abundant means hosted stag parties, they preferred provocative woman dancers in exotic garb from the "Orient." See also "A Favorite with Clubmen," Wasp, May 27, 1899, 9. "Orient" here refers to cultures from the Middle East.

60. Charles Lorrimer, "The Japanese Art of Flower Arrangement," Overland Monthly 47, no. 2 (February 1906): 116-123. Narratives of attractive Japanese geishas became particularly notable since previous depictions from the latter nineteenth century of women lacked similar tones of gender appeal. In 1897, a few anthropological narratives lingered amid a growing number of romantic geisha stories. See "Ancient Japanese Laws," San Francisco Chronicle, January 17, 1897. "Coaling Ships in Japan," San Francisco Chronicle, July 24, 1898.

61. "Our Oriental Neighbors," Wasp, February 25, 1899, 8; "The Tale of Fan," San Francisco Chronicle, February 21, 1897; Charles Brown, Jr., "The Geisha Girl's Tale," Overland Monthly 61, no. 3 (March 1913): 248; W. D. Tillotson, "The Houses Where Gods Do Dwell," Overland Monthly 46, no. 6 (December 1905): 562-573; Leonard Franklin Sawvel, "Nita, Child of the Sun," Overland Monthly 52, no. 4 (October 1908): 378; Hester A. Benedict, "Kamako," Overland Monthly 37, no. 3 (March 1901): 779-785.

62. Olive Dilbert, "Umeko-san," Overland Monthly 50, no. 4 (October 1907): 343.

63. Hester A. Benedict, "Kamako," Overland Monthly 37, no. 3 (March 1901): 779-785; Grace Hibbard, "Japanese Love Song," San Francisco Chronicle, March 13, 1898; Gertrude Holloway, "A Coquette," Wasp, November 5, 1898, 8.

64. While legal and medical experts had explicitly addressed "sex inversion" and "homosexuality" within their professional fields, the larger public remained unengaged in discussions about diverse sexual desires until World War I. For more, see John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, 2nd. ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997). Western writer Charles Warren Stoddard wrote of reading banned publications on erotic fraternal love from Europe. Roger Austen, Genteel Pagan: The Double Life of Charles Warren Stoddard, ed. John W. Crowley (Amherst: University of Amherst Press, 1991).

65. "Two Clever Little Players," San Francisco Call, March 11, 1900.

66. Caroll Smith-Rosenberg documented "romantic friendships" that formed among education- and reform-minded women. These socially acceptable relationships proliferated from the 1880s into the early 1900s, until critics grew increasingly concerned about the prevalence of homosexuality in America and discouraged female intimacy as "lesbianism." Caroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985). For more on the homoerotic potential if not reality of stage performers, see Jennifer Costello Brezina, "Public Women, Private Acts: Gender and Theater in Turn-of-the-Century American Novels," in Separate Spheres No More: Gender Convergence in American Literature, 1830-1930, ed. Monika M. Elbert (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2000); Lott, Love and Theft.

67. Mari Yoshihara asserted that Massachusetts white women dressing Japanese and expressing desire for Japanese men enacted alternative sexual identities. For Yoshihara, these explorations of sexuality referred to white women, mimicking "Oriental" romance and desire. Her research pointed to an enacted "Japanese" sexuality as different from an "American" one, and thus it became alternative. In contrast, my examples of poetry by Hibbard and Holloway additionally suggest white women imagining same-sex sexuality through their romantic desire for white women. Mari Yoshihara, "Women's Asia: American Women and the Gendering of American Orientalism, 1870s to WWII" (PhD diss., Brown University, 1997). See also Mari Yoshihara, Embracing the East: White Women and American Orientalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

68. "The Japanese Luncheon Fad," San Francisco Call, February 14, 1897.

69. "Third Violet," San Francisco Chronicle, January 17, 1897.

70. "Sale of Lawn Kimonas," San Francisco Call, May 25, 1905.

71. Lady Teazle, "Society Chat," San Francisco Chronicle, October 13, 1907.

72. Woman's Board of Foreign Missions, San Francisco, to Abiko Yonako, October 14, 1922, AFP.

73. Diary of Yonako Abiko, 1906-1907, AFP.

74. Margherita Palmieri to Yonako Abiko, July 1908, AFP.

75. Yone Noguchi, "In the Bungalow with Charles Warren Stoddard: A Protest against Modernism," National Magazine (December 1904): 306.

76. Photographs of Chinese in San Francisco, 1905, Special Collections, Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley. Chinese SVP, Subject Viewing Prints, volumes 1-3. For three examples, see 1905.5278.77-PIC; 1905.7442-PIC; and 1905.17500.14:83-PIC.

77. Historian John Tchen documented how Genthe went as far as altering his photographs to project a more "Chinese" image. For more details, see Arnold Genthe and John Kuo Wei Tchen, Genthe's Photographs of San Francisco's Old Chinatown (New York: Dover Publications, 1984).

78. "How a Chinese Queue Became an American Plait," Wasp, December 21, 1901.

79. For more on depictions of Chinese men as odd, see Nayan Shah, Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco's Chinatown (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); Robert Lee, Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999).

80. Marlon K. Hom, Songs of Gold Mountain: Cantonese Rhymes from San Francisco Chinatown (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 206.

81. Chung Sai Yat Po, December 29, 1909.

82. Sui Sin Far served as the pen name for writer Edith Maude Eaton. Eaton, whose father was white and mother was Chinese, was born in England and spent much of her childhood in Canada. While technically a mixed-race Chinese Canadian, Sui Sin Far came to define her Chinese identity through San Francisco Chinatown. For more details, see Xiao-huang Yin, Chinese American Literature since the 1850s (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000); Dominika Ferens, "Edith and Winnifred Eaton: The Uses of Ethnography in Turn-of-the-Century Asian American Literature" (PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1999).

83. Sui Sin Far, "A Chinese Ishmael," Overland Monthly 34, no. 199 (1899): 43-49.

84. Hom, Songs of Gold Mountain, 229, 312.

85. Genthe and Tchen, Genthe's Photographs.

86. Barbara Kawakami, Japanese Immigrant Clothing in Hawaii, 1885-1941 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1993); Daniel M. Masterson with Sayaka Funada-Classen, The Japanese in Latin America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004).

87. Theorists noted ethnic and racial impersonations as reflecting "mixed and messy" cultural contradictions that reflect both racial "envy" and "insult." Lott, Love and Theft, 18; Jessica Munns and Penny Richards, "The Clothes That Wear Us," in The Clothes That Wear Us: Essays on Dressing and Transgressing in Eighteenth-Century Culture, ed. Jessica Munns and Penny Richards (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1999), 26.

88. The San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project argued that many women who passed as men obtained socioeconomic privileges that would not have been available to them as women. San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project, "She Even Chewed Tobacco," in Hidden From History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, ed. Martin Duberman, Martha Vicinus and George Chauncey, Jr. (New York: Meridian, 1989).

89. In the 1930s, city whites intrigued by Asians acting "American" flocked to nightclubs such as Forbidden City to see the novelty of Asian Americans performing Frank Sinatra, Sophie Tucker, and other "eye-popping, ail-American extravaganzas." Forbidden City, U.S.A., videocassette, directed, written, and produced by Arthur Dong (Los Angeles: Deep Focus Productions, 1989).

90. "Clever Child in Her Debut," San Francisco Call, March 14, 1900.

91. For the scripts of the three productions, see Owen Hall, The Geisha (London: Ascherberg, Hopwood & Crew, 1896); W. S. Gilbert, The Mikado (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1917); Francis Powers, First Born: A Chinese Drama in One Act (n.p., [1897?]). For the banning of certain productions and additional protest, see Hesketh Pearson, Gilbert and Sullivan: A Biography (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1935); "Casino," Theatre 12 (July-December 1910): 4; "'The Mikado' Barred," Literary Digest 34, no. 21 (May 27, 1907): 838; "Chinese Drama Controversy," San Francisco Chronicle, September 25, 1897; Yone Noguchi, The Story of Yone Noguchi (Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs, 1914).

92. For more on shifting gender ideologies and their social implications, see Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). For essays on the scientific correlation of gender ambiguity to homosexuality, see Vernon Rosario, ed., Science and Homosexualities (New York: Routledge, 1997).

93. Louis Sullivan's biography of Babe Bean suggested San Francisco may have exhibited some flexibility in gender fluidity in the earliest years of the twentieth century. Louis Sullivan, From Female to Male: The Life of Jack Bee Garland (Boston: Alyson Publications, 1990).

94. Despite its censure in the 1920s, gender impersonators at the turn of the century appeared to have come a long way since its earliest days--from crass comedy embedded in misogyny to a reverent celebration of femininity in all of its gentility, modesty, and grace. Rising out of the shadows of vaudeville, drag enjoyed national acclaim as legitimate theater. Late Victorian vaudeville female impersonation affirmed and celebrated the most traditional middle class norms. Baker, Drag, 161-162; Ferris, Crossing the Stage, 108-109.

95. For more on how Asians were excluded from naturalization, property rights, and interracial marriage, see Sucheng Chan, Asian Americans: An Interpretive History (Boston: Twayne, 1991).

96. Legal scholar Ian Lopez noted how legal categories of race that could not be articulated with biological precision often defaulted to "common knowledge." Thus, though Japanese might legally prove to be white or American according to its definition, the court used perceptions of the "common" individual to still mark them as non-white. Ian F. Haney Lopez, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University Press, 1996).

97. The world of clothing and appearance well illustrates these cultural contradictions. England and France, at war for most of the century, admired, copied, and imported each other's fashions. Additionally, triumphant colonial expansion and control of trade markets brought new materials and styles to England and continental Europe. Though eagerly adopted, they also led to fears of cultural dilution and loss of national identity. Munns and Richards, "The Clothes That Wear Us," 26-27. Similar to its historical predecessors, turn-of-the-century San Francisco cross-dressing reflected existing social hierarchies and its internal contradictions, prevalent in communities grappling with social diversity.

98. For more on white privilege and cultural appropriation, see Mary C. Waters, Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America (Berkeley; University of California Press, 1990).

99. An additional story by Jean Armor Deamer suggested a white woman's attraction to a Chinese man who is in the end a white man in Chinese masquerade. Jean Armor Deamer, "The Lasting Escape," Overland Monthly 51, no. 4 (April 1908): 351. Covers of ethnicity enabling articulations of various desires certainly did not appear for the first time in turn-of-the-century San Francisco. Long before the Civil War white Americans enacted same-sex sexuality in blackface as they denigrated African Americans. Lott, Love and Theft, 162-164.

100. Laura Browder noted that during an age of theater of "blackface" and the "Wild West Show," identity had become something to be performed, rather than an essential quality. These productions permitted performers to slip between shades of brownness to find identities that were easier to live with than the ones they had been assigned at birth. She noted that from its beginnings, California had been a place where passage from one national and ethnic identity into another seemed possible. Laura Browder, Slippery Characters: Ethnic Impersonators and American Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 74, 76.

101. The notion that various ethnicities or races had biologically distinct origins dominated racial ideology throughout the nation. Scientists used this notion of innate differences to order various ethnicities into an evolutionary hierarchy, where whites not surprisingly occupied the upper tiers. E. Nathaniel Gates, ed., Racial Classification and History (New York: Garland Publishers, 1997); Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and Alchemy of Race (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997); Audrey Smedley, Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a World View, 2nd ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999); Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man, rev. ed., (New York: Norton, 1996); Michael Adas, Machines as the Mismeasure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989); George W. Stocking, Victorian Anthropology (New York: Free Press, 1987); Matthew Frye Jacobson, Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign People at Home and Abroad, 1876-1917 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2000).

102. I use the term "dark white" to point to literary critic Christina Mesa's use of the term when she referred to those individuals who accessed whiteness despite their dark pigmentation. Christina Mesa, "White Guise and Dark White Women: Purity and Miscegenation in Nineteenth Century American Culture" (PhD diss., Stanford University, 1999).

103. Brower, Slippery Characters, 74.

104. Azuma, "Interstitial Lives," 111-112, 120.
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Title Annotation:California
Author:Sueyoshi, Amy
Publication:Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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