WORKING ON WHITE WOMANHOOD: WHITE WORKING WOMEN IN THE SAN FRANCISCO ANTI-CHINESE MOVEMENT, 1877-1890.
To historians of nineteenth century laborers and of women, much is familiar in this brief speech. It embodied a radical tradition of the producer ethic, which argued for white labor's self-sufficiency in an economy increasingly dominated by wage labor, coupled with a newer insistence on the specific needs of independent white working women, who were becoming central to economic development. Through familiar metaphors of "free labor" and "unfree labor," the political rhetoric of white workers in San Francisco legitimated their critique of low wages and lack of workplace autonomy by invoking the specter of slave labor - degraded work performed by degraded Chinese workers.(2) I will suggest, however, that both Smith's call on behalf of white working women and the broader anti-Chinese, pro-white labor movement that she became a part of employed gender and sexuality, as well as class and race, to build a white workers' movement.
Following the July riots of 1877 and the subsequent development of the Workingmen's Party of California (WPC), San Francisco was awash in an anti-Chinese rhetoric that graphically depicted the sensationalized and sexualized image of white working women as victims of competition from Chinese male workers. Anxieties over femininity, motherhood, and racial and sexual purity were endemic to historical discussions of Chinese immigration, Chinese labor, and white workers' rights. "HELP!" a 1882 article in The Truth, a pro-labor San Francisco newspaper, exclaimed:
Six years ago, six thousand white Americans with wives, with sisters, with little babes - four thousand men and two thousand women were working in this city manufacturing cigars. To-day there are but one hundred and seventy-nine! Where have they gone? What had become of those free Americans? WHERE HAVE THEY GONE? Replaced by Chinese, those men who lived became thieves, tramps, vagrants, paupers, or at best, common laborers. The women, - oh, SHAME on the people, the press and the laws that permit it - to day sell their bodies as COMMON PROSTITUTES.(3)
Gender was central to how the WPC interpreted the magnitude of labor's crisis. This gendered outrage was fueled by racial antagonisms; a powerful white male labor movement, WPC rhetoric suggested, was the last line of defense in the pitched battle for the purity of white womanhood, the sanctity of the white family, and the ultimate prosperity of the (white) nation. As represented in a 1862 pamphlet decrying Chinese immigration written by a member of the WPC finance committee, white working men's right to economic autonomy was not only a result of their roles as producers, but derived as well from their roles as fathers and husbands: "What though the labor of Coolies be cheaper than that of the stalwart men of our own race ? We must nevertheless lose by the exchange. If the former drive back these hardy pioneers, who shall defend the land? Who shall whiten the plains with their homesteads? Who shall form the families of the Republic?"(4)
Stories of white women workers unsuccessfully competing with Chinese workers, finding themselves unemployed, and eventually forced into prostitution, were so common in the labor press as to comprise a virtual genre. Typical was the story of Mary Wollaston's descent into poverty and prostitution as described in a prolabor San Francisco newspaper.(5) The daughter of a small farmer, Mary was born in 1862 near Marysville, California. The floods of 1865 destroyed much of her father's crops and fields, and when Mr. Wollaston finally died in 1878, seemingly from exhaustion, Mary was left an orphan at age 16 with "but a hundred or so dollars with which to face the world." She tried to find housework in Marysville, but her "strangely beautiful face and figure" often led to "insulting overtures" from her employer and "jealously" from his wife. "Still hopeful and courageous," Mary struck out for San Francisco. There she tried to find work as a copyist but could not make enough to support herself. She was forced to settle for employment at a local shoe factory, earning four dollars a week. The work was long and arduous, and the building crowded and iii ventilated, but Mary found she made just enough to pay a dollar a week in rent for a room she shared with three other girls.
Mary soon lost her job when the company decided to hire less expensive Chinese laborers. She turned to summer work in a "hot and steaming fruit cannery for thirty and forty cents a day," but here too she was soon replaced by Chinese men willing to work for less. Destitute, Mary turned to prostitution, was arrested for vagrancy, and interned at the Magdalen House. Soon after her release from the Magdalen House, Mary Wollaston died, reportedly from "exposure, degradation, and a broken heart."(6) As evident in what might be called "the tragedy of Mary Wollaston," public debate surrounding the rise of the Workingmen's Party of California expressed concerns about wage labor, class division, and racial otherness, but it also revealed deep anxieties about white manhood and white womanhood, and about the relationship between white women and work.
If the image of the hapless white working girl in the figure of Mary Wollaston played a central role in the developing class critique of the WPC, she was equally important to an emerging gendered critique of social and political inequities lodged by middle-class female reformers. With increased numbers of Chinese men available for domestic labor, the role of white women domestic servants in the households of her wealthier sisters was defended through a language of gender alliance and racial solidarity. The righteous cause of white domestic servants to earn a living wage in the relative safety of another woman's home was incorporated into networks of middle-class female moral reform and political agitation, becoming part of a larger critique of women's unequal position in American society. Where important gender differences had been masked in the male labor movement's insistence on a race and class crisis, the significance of class to working women's experiences was ignored in middle-class women's efforts to construct gender coalitions.
In both word and deed, white women were central to the anti-Chinese movement in San Francisco. In word, stories of the victimhood of white working women provided the growing labor movement a fictionalized emotional center. Narratives such as Mary Wollaston's attacked Chinese labor through the guise of protecting working-class women from exploitation, thus legitimating the efforts of the white male labor movement to unionize white male workers and prohibit Asian immigration. These stories of female desperation also became part of the language of an emerging middle-class female reform movement in San Francisco. In the later decades of the nineteenth century, middle-class women would increasingly ally themselves with their working-class sisters through a vocabulary of shared gender oppression.
Indeed, a few white working women like Anna Smith were vocal activists, demanding stable employment at a living wage for women workers. While the fictive stories of women like Mary Wollaston proliferated in the press, the stories of the lived experiences of women like Anna Smith are more elusive. Unfortunately, only small traces remain of the historical record recounting the efforts of women like Smith to agitate on behalf of white working women. We know far too little of the consequences of white working women's multi-layered involvement in the anti-Chinese movement in San Francisco during the late 1870s and 1880s - how they participated in the street protests, labor unions, political caucuses and action committees that erupted and gained force during the racist fervor of late nineteenth century San Francisco. What remains in brief newspaper accounts, however, offers some insight into the strategies white women like Anna Smith may have employed in their efforts to achieve a living wage. These strategies suggest that the complex class, gender, and race alliances that would come to characterize the California labor and women's suffrage movements of the early twentieth century had their roots in the racial violence of the earlier anti-Chinese movement.
The relationship between race and the growth of a powerful white male labor movement, and the role anti-Chinese protests may have played in educating working men into more formal political systems, have been the subjects of lively historical debate.(7) But women's roles in the labor movement, anti-Chinese protests, or the development of nineteenth century working-class political parties in San Francisco have not generated as much historical interest, perhaps for good reasons.(8) Excluded from union membership and denied the franchise, women do not fit well into historical frameworks which have explored the relationships among labor unrest, anti-Chinese agitation, and formal union and political participation.(9)
A gendered analysis of the San Francisco anti-Chinese movement raises new questions about the historical and social construction of class identity, an identity fraught with competing interests and sometimes contradictory affiliations that pulled white working women in multiple directions. My analysis suggests that the historical process of political identity formation - whether as a woman, a worker, a white person, or, as is more often the case, as many conflicting and competing categories at once - functions both as a process of exclusion and as a process of moving strategically among social categories in an effort to build political coalitions. Confronted with an increasingly nonwhite, nonmale labor force, white working men attempted to fortify the artisanal republic and the salience of class as a political identity through the emotionally charged languages of racial exclusion and traditional gender relations. As middle-class women organized to protest gender inequities, the experiences of white working women became an important metaphor for all women's vulnerability to male exploitation. Thus, if white working-class women were to improve their economic and political positions, they would have to negotiate complex class, gender, and race affiliations articulated by white working-class men and white middle-class women.
Historical studies of the experiences of women have argued for a more nuanced conception of social hierarchies, one that links systems of meaning and difference.(10) Relationships of difference are by their very nature comparative and constitutive, linking individuals to each other and to the whole in hierarchies of color and caste, class and context, gender and sexuality.(11) As Elsa Barkley Brown has argued, "Middle-class women's lives are not just different from working-class white, Black, and Latina women's lives. It is important to recognize that middle-class women live the lives they do precisely because working-class women live the lives they do. White women and women of color not only live different lives but white women live the lives they do in large part because women of color live the ones they do."(12) The experiences of white working women in the anti-Chinese movement in San Francisco starkly demonstrate the linkages forged in difference that Brown describes. As their stories were refashioned and retold by white male unionists or by white middle-class female reformers, fictionalized portrayals of white working women's experiences became integral to the way others understood, explained, and experienced their own economic crises, gender inequality, and race privilege. Desperate stories of white working women's economic and sexual vulnerability provided flexible metaphors through which other groups could articulate their own needs and around which they would form effective political coalitions.
White working women were faced with responding to two influential, but often conflicting, social groups that alternately privileged their roles as white workers and as white women. In the wake of a rhetoric that depicted them only as victims, white working women would have to articulate their own active role as producers of both goods and children in the artisan republic, as they would have to insist on the chasm that separated their experiences from those of their middle class employers. Although the historical record is dim, what evidence remains of their strategies, however, does hint at white working women's efforts to articulate their own needs in an emerging wage labor system that rested on interwoven hierarchies of race, class, and gender. White working women did attend labor rallies where they agitated for the needs of their working-class sisters. White working women did speak at public demonstrations condemning low wages and the lack of job security for women. White women seamstresses and laundresses did mobilize grievance committees that made claims against employers for higher pay and better working conditions.
To explore the complex political identities of white working women in San Francisco, this 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. It then 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's labor. Finally, this paper will tease out from the extant evidence how white working women themselves 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. Together, these approaches reveal both the important role white working women played in the San Francisco anti-Chinese movement and the labor unrest that surrounded it, and the ways in which the political coalitions that emerged during this period formed through multiple and mutually reinforcing exclusions based on race, class, and gender difference.
The Labor Movement and the Working Girl
By the mid-1870s, the national depression that began on the East coast swept across the nation, bringing an estimated 154,300 desperate, and often unskilled, men and women to California seeking relief and hope.(13) To add to the growing economic distress in San Francisco, the completion of the transcontinental railroad and the collapse of many smaller mines forced Chinese men into San Francisco in search of new employment.(14) Chinese workers found employment in the same low skilled and low paying jobs and areas of light industry that attracted migrant women. A significant component of San Francisco's labor troubles lay in the increased competition between white women and Chinese men for ever scarcer employment.(15) Between 1876 and 1880, the daily manufacturing wage of white women and Chinese men in the shirt industry in San Francisco fell from $1.25 to $1.10 to $1.00. Facing competition from more industrialized Northeastern textile factories, which had gained access to western markets with the completion of the railroad, profits for San Francisco manufacturers were slim and wages for sweatshop workers suffered accordingly.(16) In the first half of 1877, Alexander Saxton has estimated, nearly one-fifth of the available labor force was unemployed, and with drought conditions worsening for farmers in the Sacramento Valley, the numbers of jobless could only increase.(17) Indeed, by 1877 as many as 10,000 people sought relief from the San Francisco Benevolent Association, 4,000 from April to June alone.(18)
Frustrated and increasingly desperate, white working men protested what they perceived as the encroaching menace of cheap Chinese labor, but they did it in a language that reflected concerns about working women's autonomy. The Mechanics' State Council, an early and powerful federation of California unions, lay the blame for the current economic depression, and the conditions of female degradation it had created, at the feet of Chinese labor: "Our young women are compelled to work at starvation prices, and are degraded by association with Chinamen in the workshops during their hours of labor."(19) What was once honorable factory work for white women had become dishonorable as a result of economic competition and racial integration on the shop floor.
Feminized by their positions in the labor market, Chinese men challenged both the gender and racial conventions of work.(20) Their racial otherness and their employment in occupations traditionally defined as women's work marked the Chinese male laborer as both feminine and not free. WPC pamphlets were scornful and condemning: "He is a slave - an abject slave. While he holds it the best policy to keep his place, he keeps it with the most abject humility. You cannot discern that he is a man. All his passions have been whipped into servile obedience."(21) Not free, in the context of late nineteenth century San Francisco, connoted both not-white and not-male; thus the discourse of otherness developed against foils of Chinese men and white working women.(22) As United States senator Aaron Sargent told a crowd of 25,000 in 1876, the Chinese worker "has taken labor from women - such work as gave them honest and virtuous independence, and has driven too many of them to resort to practices of shame and guilt."(23) Sargent linked economic and sexual exploitation, and both, he argued, were a consequence of Chinese male laborers. His allusion to the shame of white working women proved powerful in the context of San Francisco, where the white population knew of the prevalent and abysmal prostitution of Chinese women. Sargent sketched the outlines of the two-part image that was to provide much of the emotional force of anti-Chinese rhetoric produced by the white male labor movement: white female victimhood and Chinese male villainy.
Following the nation-wide railroad and sympathy strikes of July 1877, San Francisco erupted in three days and nights of labor protest, along with violence against Chinese male immigrants and the homes of some of the businessmen who employed them.(24) Planned as a sympathy demonstration for forty men and women strikers killed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by local militia, protesters who gathered on the sand-lots in front of a partially constructed city hall rapidly deteriorated into a mob that took as its primary goal the destruction of Chinese laundries. In September 1877, three months after the riots had ended, Denis Kearney formed the Workingmen's Party of California (WPC).(25) The WPC was to become the most important political force in California during the remainder of the decade, taking a central role in drafting a new State Constitution, agitating the Federal Government to negotiate new treaty restrictions with China, and ensuring the passage of a federal Chinese exclusion law.(26)
Anxieties about working women, white manhood, and racial difference came to the fore in emotional debates over public safety, white women's job security, and Chinese labor. Despite the allusion to women's rights, the WPC rhetoric that grew out of the summer riots, and would remain to some degree a fixture of California labor agitation, subdued the potentially subversive image of the independent working girl both by tying her more closely to her role in the family, as a mother to white children, and by positing the dire moral implications of her life adrift, prostitution and tragic death. The WPC's seemingly official recognition of working women's need for autonomy in the labor market was easily subverted by the manly rhetoric that was at the center of the WPC's political grammar. The emotional power of the WPC's discourse of the free and independent white male hinged on two familiar themes - white female victimhood and Chinese otherness. WPC literature discredited Chinese labor by arguing that the Chinese man posed a direct threat to white women in three interrelated ways: as a diseased body, as a sexual pervert, and as an economic competitor.
Disease provided the central metaphor for an insistence on racial difference.(27) Typhoid, leprosy, and diphtheria became emotional watchwords, condemning Chinese men and women with the broad brush of racial hysteria. The proximity of urban spaces intensified fears of intimacy and contagion, culminating in the WPC-led controversy over the public safety of Chinatown.(28) Chinatown became the symbol of the diseased other who lived in conditions that offended decent notions of propriety, modesty, privacy, and cleanliness.(29) In this discourse of disease, the image of the Chinese woman prostitute figured powerfully. One WPC pamphlet gravely informed its readers, "She communicates the virus to all who visit her, until she is a mass of corruption," and what was even more frightening, "thus the rising generation is led to destruction and death."(30) The menace of syphilis and contagion transferred quickly in the public imagination to Chinese men by racial association. Associated with syphilitic Chinese women prostitutes, and the more exotic diseases supposedly rampant in the very concrete and air of Chinatown itself, Chinese men working as domestic servants or laundry providers for white families served as a vehicle for invisible contagion.(31) "Can he be pure whose sister is the vilest strumpet on earth? Can he be cleanly who emerges from such reeking filth as Chinatown? Can he be a safe companion who has slept with the leper, and in the infectious breath of syphilis and small pox?"(32)
Psychologically, it was not far from danger to decay, from an outside menace to one from within. Miscegenation posed the ultimate threat.(33) Fears like those of Dr. Arthur B. Stout, member of the WPC finance committee, provided the undercurrent that gave force to wave after wave of rhetoric insisting on the need to buttress the wages and social stature of white male breadwinners against this sexual menace. The race, Stout gravely insisted, must be preserved: "By intermarrying with Europeans, we are but reproducing our own Caucasian type; by commingling with the Eastern Asiatics, we are creating degenerate hybrids." "Who" Stout concluded, "shall form the families of the Republic?"(34) Sex ratio imbalances and liberal divorce laws in California had made maintaining a traditional family difficult for most working men. Neil Shumsky suggests that California divorce rates had increased over the nineteenth century, and by the 1870s one in every 7.6 marriages ended in divorce. Importantly, women were responsible for initiating over 75 percent of these successful divorce actions.(35) Thus anxieties about paternity and anger toward a racial other became linked in a growing sense that the precariously-established white family faced untold danger.(36) In one newspaper illustration, a white woman is besieged by offers and attentions from men of various races, and while she seems disinclined to choose one over another, a frightening Chinese man looms in the lower right corner scaring prospective white men away.(37)
WPC rhetoric condemned the replacement of white female domestic servants with Chinese male immigrants in the homes of upper-class San Franciscans through similar sexualized images of inter-racial seduction and intimacy. Subservience to wealthy white women, the literature suggested, allowed more penetrating access to a deeper knowledge of white women's sexual vulnerability, and ultimately created a dangerous familiarity between mistress and servant. "He can do unimaginable things. Grown familiar, the toilets of China are suggested. The manners of the harem are introduced. The lady is taught all the luxuries of the East.... Thus the luxury and debauchery of the Orient are brought into the houses of the rich. Thus the poor are denied service because they are not slaves; because they have sex, and shame, and sense of propriety."(38) Chinese domestic servants conjured up fears of Eastern decadence and lasciviousness.(39) Privy to the intimacies of feminine domestic life, helping white women in their bedrooms and baths, Chinese male servants touched, saw, and heard more than other men.(40) Whether through opium or habits of luxury and debauchery, WPC literature warned, wealthy white women and girls were made vulnerable to seduction by others. Racial otherness became equated with gender perversity.(41)
In the WPC rhetoric that depicted Chinese men's interactions with white working women, however, racial otherness and immorality remained constant refrains while the scene shifted from the private bedrooms of the wealthy to the public world of work and the shop floor. In defense of working women, WPC literature linked fears of racial contamination to conservative images of white working-class women as innocent, chaste, and vulnerable working girls, creating both the Chinese sexual pervert and the white female victim. Importantly, in the case of white working women, their vulnerability was a result not of sexualized intimacy with Chinese men but of economic competition. Although there are occasional references to physical proximity at work that defiled young working women, the metaphors are of vague contagions rather than direct physical contact.(42) The threat to working women, however, retained its sexual edge, for the story became one of white girls driven to prostitution for lack of available and sustaining employment.
Forced from their jobs by Chinese men willing to work for subsistence wages, white working women, according to WPC rhetoric, had no where else to turn but the streets and prostitution. "Have not hundreds of your sisters and mine been crushed down to deep, dark, damning infamy because their bodies would sell for nameless purposes, when honest industry will not secure them daily bread?"(43) Charges that white women who could not find work because of Chinese competition would be forced into prostitution were all the more loaded for the desperate and pathetic image of the Chinese woman prostitute often before the public eye. The specter of the Chinese woman forms the insistent, though shadowy, subplot of much of the discourse around white women, work, and Chinese men. Against the foil of a racialized and sexualized female body, white women's fall from respectability was all the more horrific. As a Knights of Labor pamphlet insisted, white daughters would be forced to mingle with the heathen, "to share the heathen's life and to imbibe the heathen's vice, to sink and wallow with him in the horrible and bottomless pit of penury and woe."(44) The vice was most certainly opium, and the pit was invariably the dark dens of Chinatown, where women sold themselves without shame.
The Truth, a prolabor paper, ran a series of articles depicting the fall from grace of respectable white working women forced into prostitution. Like the tale of Mary Wollaston, the tragic story of Nellie Brown was typical in its insistence on female vulnerability and inherent innocence.(45) Nellie was a "strangely prepossessing girl of nineteen," and when the story begins she has been arrested for vagrancy. Without work and without any hope of future work, Nellie is sentenced. At one time, Nellie had been a respectable and hopeful girl, who had worked in a shoe shop and supported herself on a small but adequate salary. Sadly, Nellie was discharged and replaced by less expensive Chinese laborers. Persistent and in need of money to support herself, she found work in a cigar shop, but again she was let go, again to make room for cheap Chinese workers. "Houseless and homeless, starving and unable to work because she could find nothing to do," Nellie turned to the streets in desperation, "for love of life is stronger sometimes than fear of shame." Nellie was now "on the broad road to utter destruction of body and soul." Through heavy melodrama, The Truth was scathing in its condemnation of Chinese immigration and insistent on its causal relationship to white women's prostitution.
Nellie Brown is crouching now on the damp and filthy floor of a prison cell. She is friendless, loveless and homeless. And she has not the courage to die until her soul is lost beyond redemption, and her beautiful and pleading eyes are dim and bleared with a whole life's anguish.
These are facts. They are occurring every day. Do YOU have a chinaman to do your washing and housework? Do YOU buy Chinese cigars and shoes? Are you one of those SCOUNDRELS who act as procurers to drive the pretty girls of free America to SHAME and a PRISON CELL?(46)
Nellie's tragic story was followed by countless others; Nellie Connoly, the mother from L street, and Mary the dressmaker.(47) By the 1880s, Nellie's story of white working women's victimhood at the hands of Chinese workers had become a central part of the rhetoric that fueled the San Francisco labor and Chinese exclusion movements. As these stories of working women's victimhood seem to suggest, the battle for union control against Chinese immigration centered around white women's chastity and white women's work. The challenge for white working women now lay in claiming roles as spokespeople and activists within a white male dominated movement that had Nellie as its fictionalized emotional center.
Middle-class Women and the Servant Girl
Race and class had proved effective tools to incorporate the experiences of white women in light manufacturing within a developing white male labor movement, but domestic service demanded its own strategy on the part of middle-class women reformers, one that elaborated upon images of race and gender while diminishing those of class. In discussions of domestic work, Irish working women were assigned a visible racial identity parallel to that assigned to Chinese men - nonwhite. In the ensuing public debate upper-class white women insisted on the class disparity that separated them from Irish working-class female employees. In contrast, middle-class white female reformers claimed both race and gender affinity with their less privileged sisters, emphasizing the race and gender distance between them and Chinese male workers.
In the public debate over the quality of domestic service throughout the 1870s, class-based definitions of whiteness served to distance Irish working women racially from their female, presumably Anglo, employers. As one article in Scribner's Monthly related, Mrs. B., a wealthy housekeeper, having just dismissed two domestic servants and refinished her entire house, bemoaned to her friend, "How can I endure to put a dirty Irish girl, with perhaps a host of attendant vermin lurking in her bags and bundles, into a nice room like this?" "I declare, she added, as if her audacity almost startled her, I believe I'd try a Chinaman, if I knew where to get one."(48) Graphic depictions of working women, usually Irish, drew heavily on racial stereotypes of stupidity and uncleanliness, often juxtaposed with images of smaller, subservient Chinese men.(49) "We may leave the question of their faithfulness and honesty to be settled by the thousands among us who are hapless, helpless victims of kitchen tyranny and impudence," one author insisted, "The inefficiency and vulgar impudence of domestic servants in America is proverbial; especially is this true in the case of those who are of the Roman Catholic religion, serving in Protestant families."(50) In these accounts, whiteness appeared as a function of character, behavior, and religion. Thus the introduction of an alternatively raced body into the home, Chinese men, was discussed in terms of the exchange of racial traits - Irish unpredictability, disrespect, and Catholicism traded for Chinese submissiveness, secrecy, and alien cultural practices. According to one commentator, "John has his good points to be sure, but John, after all, is not a saint, and to change from Irish to Chinese is not to pass from purgatory to paradise. It is simply to refresh the chafed housewifely spirit, by exchanging a set of Christian faults for a set of heathen faults."(51)
Undoubtedly, the largest proportion of white female domestic servants were Irish.(52) Irish immigrants comprised thirty-five percent of the white foreign born population in San Francisco in 1870, and fifty percent of the women applicants for employment through the Labor Exchange were Irish.(53) Most young women found domestic work demeaning and resisted the inequity and diminished social status often implicit in domestic labor.(54) In general, Irish women refused to perform more tasks in the household then their wages warranted,(55) were reluctant to leave San Francisco and the support of the Catholic church and the Irish community to take available positions in the country,(56) and pursued more lucrative employment in manufacturing industries.(57) In the greatest affront to class based structures, young Irish domestics quit when they thought they were being treated unfairly or with disrespect.(58) The introduction of Chinese domestic servants had often served as an effort to buttress a system of class relations between white women employers and their Irish employees. In a speech before the Joint Committee of the Two Houses of Congress on Chinese Immigration, F.A. Bee contended "If there is any calling in which [a Chinese man] is a direct divine blessing it is that of a domestic servant; he is the balance wheel which protects the mistress and housewife from imposition, and relieves her of the idea that servant and mistress are on an equality. He holds the balance of power against Bridget, as he does against trades unions and is hated and persecuted by both alike."(59)
Much of the anxiety about the servant problem in California was derived from changing ideas of class and women's work. The California Labor Exchange reported that from 1868 to 1871 the demand for women servants was nearly twice the supply. While the requests for male workers had decreased fifty percent over that period, the demand for women who would work in families was unabated. Most of these early women immigrants were Irish. During the first six months of its operation, the Labor Exchange placed fourteen hundred women in employment, of whom 1,073 were Irish.(60) Early sex ratio imbalances had provided working-class women with unusual leverage in labor relations, allowing them to choose between domestic work, which placed heavy demands on time and autonomy, and factory work, which offered greater independence if equally demanding working conditions. Early Chinese immigrants had filled vacancies in wealthy homes in the state, while white women opted for wage labor in fruit canneries, shoe and glove factories, cigar manufacturing, laundries, and various sewing trades.
In the late 1870s and 1880s the class gulf between middle-class and working-class women narrowed as the race gulf between whites and Chinese grew. Concerns over Chinese men as secretive predators became more vocal. "No matter how good a Chinaman may be, ladies never leave their children with them, especially little girls," one writer explained. The sense of racial difference deepened: "We are dealing with an unknown quantity, and no one thinks of trusting them as we trust our own, or the negro race."(61) The presence of Chinese men served to highlight gender solidarity and worked to shift notions of whiteness away from those of class and towards more physiologically based racial identities.
The realignment of women along race and gender, rather than class, lines appeared by the 1880s, when working women had began to lodge protests from the sand-lot against wealthy white women who employed Chinese domestic servants, and white middle-class women allied themselves with the cause of their working class sisters.(62) Middle-class women's concerns were perhaps motivated by a tradition of social activism that had often been expressed through beneficent societies, church work, and relief organizations. In 1850, for example, The Hesperian, an early women's literary magazine published in San Francisco, had argued that the relationship between white middle class women and their female employees was one of moral responsibility and dutiful service.(63) However, an 1877 illustration of the relationship between wealthy white women and their working class sisters produced by The Wasp graphically highlighted what it considered to be the hypocrisy of female benevolent work. Titled "Fleet Street, A Contrast," one half of the white woman depicts a middle-class matron smartly dressed, the other half sketches a sad, broken down and decayed skeletal woman in tatters and rags. The illustration links all white women in the common threat of poverty.(64) In the precarious economic and social structure of California, middle-class women realized that they had a personal interest in preserving a unique space in the labor system for respectable women's work. As one author reminded her readers, "Many a delicately nurtured woman by the death of the bread-winner ... has been thrown upon her own resources ... [and] with weak woman's hands, inured to no harder labor than guiding the pencil or touching the piano, must now go forth and battle for bread for herself, and perhaps, for others."(65)
An expression of cross-class coalition among white women based on race and gender was developed by 1882 in the Woman's Protective League of California. Members promised not to employ any Chinese men in household labor or purchase any household supplies from Chinese manufacturers. Through a language of sisterhood and affinity, committee members insisted both that they could and would do the work themselves rather than hire Chinese servants, and, more fundamentally, that women's work should not be restricted to household drudgery by some false theory of her limited feminine capabilities. The society planned to function as a placement agency, providing references and referrals for unemployed working girls. White working women, of any religion, would be afforded a place to live, cook, and wash for themselves while they sought work.(66) To middle-class women employers, the behavior of Chinese male domestic service workers had become increasingly foreign while the needs of white working-class women had become more familiar. Once separated by religious and class differences, white middle-class female employers now found common cause with their Irish working-class sisters.
Working Out White Womanhood
As the anti-Chinese and labor movements gained momentum through the 1880s, fueled by racially and sexually charged melodrama, white working women became increasingly vocal on their own behalf. In response to both male labor and female middle class reform movements that included them only in the role of a fictionalized gendered victim, working women insisted on their alternative credentials for membership - race privilege, class experience, and gender solidarity. If neither movement was going to speak up for their practical concerns over low wages and unstable employment, the women would have to do it themselves. From the sand lot, white working women demanded class, gender, and race privileges: equitable treatment as legitimate, full-time workers, sympathetic treatment as women, and preferential treatment as white workers.
While not much is known about the 1877 San Francisco rioters, and their identities and motivations are subject to continued historical debate, we do know that working women were present at the July 23, 1877 evening meeting that began the unrest and at the various public protests that followed.(67) Nationally, both white women and women of color had participated in every city where protest had erupted.(68) In San Francisco, Laura Kendrick spoke to the assembled July crowd and urged the workingmen to share their wages with their wives since the hardships of the Depression fell on wives and children with as much force.(69) The local press usually dismissed the protesters as young hoodlums, more vandals than politicos, but a cartoon from California's The Illustrated Wasp, a weekly newspaper noted for its sting, drew attention to the unexpected participation of women in the summer riots. In the illustration the "hoodlum" rioters are depicted as a woman dressed in the garb of the French Revolution.(70) With a weapon tucked under her arm, a white woman participating in the street protests of 1877 San Francisco is visually linked to the violent excesses of eighteenth century France and possibly the Paris Commune of 1871. The image seeks to convey both the novelty of women's public activism but also, perhaps, the righteousness of their cause - liberty, equality, and solidarity.(71)
In fact, women in San Francisco had been active in the prior decade of union agitation that had culminated in the anti-Chinese riots that finally ignited in July 1877. Though officially excluded from formal union participation, white working women were present at early union protests. At an 1870 meeting, for example, over a sea of faces, men below and women in the galleries above, all set intently on the speakers platform, a few banners waved in the air above the assembled Knights of St. Crispin: "By the Sword we Won the Country, and by the Sword we shall Maintain it." "Woman's Rights, and no more Chinese Chambermaids." "Our Women are Degraded by Coolie Labor." "The Men who Fought our Battles must Reap the Benefit." Women looked on intently as the mechanics adopted a resolution condemning "this cruel and monstrous competition that is now driving us and our families to starvation."(72)
During the decade that followed the early union anti-Chinese meetings of the 1870s, white women marched alongside their fellow laborers in parades and participated in social activities that publicly expressed the growing frustration of working people.(73) By the 1880s, unemployed working men and women assembled weekly on the sand lots in front of the new city hall to protest continued white unemployment and the presence of Chinese labor.(74) Anna Smith was a regular speaker, often presiding over the gatherings that numbered in the hundreds and sometimes thousands of unemployed. Under her direction, working women formed committees and solicited employers for gainful employment.(75)
In a series of confrontations at factory gates, working women defended their right to become independent wage earners against employers' accusations that "working" women were temporary laborers rather than permanent members of the labor force.(76) Much of the argument put forward by employers suggested that women workers were just that - women first and workers second. Some employers suggested that women only sought paid labor temporarily until they found a suitable husband or raised a family. Others argued that women were more anxious to go shopping and visiting than they were to secure a steady wage.(77) Chinese men may have competed with white women for the available positions, employers of working women contended, but this competition only forced unpredictable and temporary laborers out of the market.(78)
J.H. Neustradter, a partner in the Standard Shirt company, complained that of the 100 unskilled white girls he had hired, apprenticed, and offered secure wages upon completion of their training, not six remained to learn the trade. Neustradter argued that his firm had to compete with East Coast factories that employed women who were not compelled to earn their living, whose earnings were often merely pocket money. "You should consider," Neustradter continued, "whether it is not better for 200 or 300 or 400 girls to be employed in a factory, and earning nearly enough to support them, than to be not employed at all."(79) Likewise, the president of Greenebaum and Co., a local clothing manufacturer, insisted that while he would be willing to hire more white women, their wages would be very low since their work would be the relatively easy task of guiding the material through steam powered machines. Even so, the best hands could not earn more than seven dollars a week.(80) Damning rhetoric of marriage and pocket money contradicted what was most likely the material reality for women who had to be self-supporting and who lived in conditions of near poverty. Independent female wage earners, seemingly unconnected to and uncontrolled by traditional family structures, threatened to destabilize established wage systems which rationalized women's low pay by citing female transience and dependence.
Speaking before the assembled sand-lot crowd, Anna Smith responded to attacks on white women's labor. Every white woman, Smith argued, should be allowed to earn her own living.(81) Smith invoked the specter of prostitution as the alternative to self-supporting wages. "Women," Smith announced, "had the same right as men to earn an honest living. They did not wish to be compelled to go on certain streets to eke out an existence. They did not want to sell themselves, souls and bodies."(82) In an effort to address further the immediate needs of factory women, the sand-lot committee endeavored to act as a placement agency, finding positions for unemployed women during its meetings with manufacturers. On one day, over 50 working women of varying ages assembled in the early morning near the sand-lot to hear of prospective positions and to follow the committee members from mill to mill inquiring about the race of their employees. Overwhelmed by requests, the sand-lot organizers kept a list of names of unemployed women and the extent of their current need and prioritized people accordingly.(83) There were some successes, for a number of factory owners under duress dismissed their Chinese workers and hired white women.(84)
Led by Smith, white working women organized their own Committee on Corporations Looking into Laundries. Along with two other women from the sand lot, a Mrs. James Andrews and a Mrs. Sergeant, Smith approached employers and asked them to hire white women exclusively.(85) Two weeks later the sandlot Committee of Unemployed confidently announced that the Committee on Laundries had been successful, garnering promises from local laundries to give priority to white women.(86)
White women laundresses also formed gender and race alliances with their wealthy counterparts to establish white women's protective organizations. The Women's and Girl's Protective Laundry on Pine Street occupied an entire three story building in which space was allocated for work as well as for boarding. The laundry employed twenty to thirty white women and girls. The president of the Protective Laundry, Mrs. P.J. White, was the wife of the president of Western Fire and Marine Insurance Company, while the vice president and other officers were wives of equally prominent San Francisco businessmen.(87) Arguments for protection were couched in terms of race. As The Truth noted, "the ladies of the Association do not desire to take work from or come in damaging competition with other laundries where white labor is employed exclusively." Similarly, the White Women's Laundry on Geary street was "established for the purpose of adding white women and girls and give them employment in preference to Chinese laundrymen."(88)
In the effort to provide and secure work, women formed new gender and race coalitions across traditional class and religious divides. Working women formerly distanced from their employers by class codes and ethnic stereotypes were now incorporated within a shared rhetoric of race solidarity and gender protection. The alliance between white women workers and middle-class women protectors endured into the next century and would become significant in state suffrage campaigns.(89) In 1907, for example, white union women founded the Wage Earners' Suffrage League. Full participants in the final campaign for women's suffrage, the league relied on the support of middle-class feminists to win labor organizations to the cause of suffrage.(90) This organization, like so many others with roots in the coalitions developed during the anti-Chinese agitation, remained for white women only.
As the sand lot agitation became formalized into the Workingmen's Party, women's concerns were eventually incorporated in the party's platform. The desperate plight of the white working girl, a centerpiece of WPC campaigns, became a subject of WPC political policy. The WPC advocated equal pay for women, established a free labor exchange to help unemployed women and men find jobs, raised money for the benefit of impoverished women - such as the widow who received $54 - and provided seed money for new businesses, with one woman granted $65 to open her new establishment.(91)
By the 1880s, women had begun to achieve effective union representation. With the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, white women moved in greater numbers into manufacturing and industrial positions, solidifying their strategic importance to the growing labor movement.(92) Typographical Union Local 21 accepted female members beginning in 1883, and by May that year The Truth proudly announced that five "ladies" were initiated into the Harness Maker's Assembly, Knights of Labor. The Knights of Labor Ladies Assembly #5855 met for the first time in 1888.(93) Working women, who only ten years before had been, at best, ignored by the organized trade union movement, were now an important constituency for the increasingly politicized labor movement in San Francisco.
To male labor agitators Chinese male workers were decidedly non-white and thus beyond the pale of a racially exclusive movement. White women had originally been perceived as non-permanent members of the labor force, but faced with the choice between race and gender the labor movement backed the women. The movement would remain for whites only; like working men, newly unionized white women systematically excluded women of color. Thus, white women gained entry into the established labor movement by claiming racial solidarity with white working men at the expense of a more subtle and radical critique of broader systems of inequity that linked race, class, and gender.(94)
The debates over white women's labor centered upon working women's claim to membership in the white working-class movement as full time, skilled laborers and in the white female middle-class reform movement as white women in need. As a result, both gender and race exclusions in the labor market were left unchallenged. The white working-class women participating in these public debates never questioned whether women should be relegated to the lower paying industrial and domestic positions in the labor market that were traditionally designated as women's work. In their move from rhetorical figures to political actors, white working women loyally embraced each movement's racism and built political identities as white workers and white women, rather than as women or as working people. White men and women never saw the need for an alliance that did not insist on racial discrimination. Perhaps this is because the Chinese men with whom white laborers often worked side by side had precious little political power to offer in the bargain. Perhaps it is because the privileges of whiteness for members of both the middle- and working-class were too dear. What may have been a moment of opportunity for either working class solidarity or gender equity in the late nineteenth century seems from the perspective of the late twentieth century a moment of coalition lost.
Tactical coalitions formed through multiple exclusions based on race, class, and gender differences were central to the efforts of both labor unions and middle-class women to win political support from domestic servants, laundresses, and seamstresses. Significantly, the presence of a Chinese male "other" allowed each group to establish these political alliances. As the experiences of white working women in San Francisco during the last decades of the nineteenth century demonstrate, the historical construction of class, race, and gender identities are a process of both inclusion and exclusion, of coalition and division. Personal and political meaning came not at the intersection of these three social categories, but in their mingling over time and within historical context.
Department of History
Stanford, CA 94305-2024
This paper was greatly improved by the thoughtful comments of Roberta Chavez, George Fredrickson, Joby Gardner, Nancy Hewitt, Peggy Pascoe, Gina Marie Pitti, Judy Yung, and the members of the Gender History Workshop at Stanford University. Its was first presented at the Pacific Coast Branch meeting of the American Historical Association, August 1996. I have also benefited from the rigorous comments offered by the editorial board of the Journal of Social History and by two anonymous readers. Finally, I would like to thank Estelle Freedman for her support and guidance.
1. San Francisco Daily Morning Call, Feb. 8, 1880.
2. On the development of "free labor" ideology see, Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War (New York, 1970).
3. The Truth, May 3, 1882.
4. Arthur B. Stout, M.D. "Chinese Immigration and the Physiological Causes of the Decay of a Nation" (San Francisco, 1862) in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets, Special Collections Rare Books, Stanford University. (hereafter Chinese Immigration Pamphlets)
5. Mary Wollaston's story appeared as a cover story of The Truth, a prolabor San Francisco newspaper; see The Truth, March 11, 1882.
6. The Truth, March 11, 1882.
7. The classic treatment of the development and character of the San Francisco labor movement is Ira B. Cross, A History of the Labor Movement in California (Berkeley, 1935); see also Alexander Saxton's discussion of the importance of race to a white working class local and eventual national identity (Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California [Berkeley, 1971]); Michael Kazin, "Prelude to Kearneyism: The July Days in San Francisco, 1877," New Labor Review 3 (June 1980): 5-47; and Neil Larry Shumsky, The Evolution of Political Protest and the Workingmen's Party of California (Columbus, 1991).
8. Some historians have made passing reference to the presence of women in the Workingmen's Party of California and its activities. See Cross, A History of the Labor Movement in California, 90, 123; and Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy, 144-146, 171. Saxton quotes WPC rhetoric about women and women's work, but he does not discuss gender as an important category of analysis connected to race and class.
9. This is the explanation Shumsky offers. His study traces participation through voting records; thus he is unable to address the evidence that suggests women's participation, (see Shumsky, Evolution of Political Protest, 26-27). Major exceptions are Mary Ryan's treatment of women in the July 1877 protests (Ryan, Women in Public: Between Banners and Ballots, 1825-1880 [Baltimore, 1990], 160-163), and Philip J. Ethington s discussion of the suffrage movement in San Francisco (Ethington, Public City: The Political Construction of Urban Life in San Francisco, 1850-1900 [Cambridge, 1994]).
10. Elsa Barkley Brown, "What Has Happened Here": The Politics of Difference in Women's History and Feminist Politics" Feminist Studies 18:2 (1992): 295-312; Nancy Hewitt, "Compounding Differences," Feminist Studies 18:2 (1992): 313-326; Deborah Grey White, "The Slippery Slope of Class" in Susan Ware, ed., New Viewpoints in Women's History: Working Papers from the Schlesinger Library 50th Anniversary Conference, March 4-5, 1994 (Radcliffe College, 1994).
11. In exploring the construction of social identities, historians have sometimes isolated class from gender or from race. In discussing the San Francisco labor and anti-Chinese movements, for example, Alexander Saxton argues that white workingmen and their leaders discovered a powerful organizing tool in the anti-Chinese crusade, but by distracting the nonskilled and the unemployed from any campaign for radical social reform, their racism undermined a more radical class consciousness. Similarly, David Montgomery suggests that within a language of manliness the daily experience of wage labor helped instruct working-class men in the necessities of class consciousness bounded by traditional gender roles. How workers who were neither white nor male fit into these models of racialized or gendered class consciousness is unclear, although David Roediger's discussion of whiteness as a strategic response to the limitations of wage labor suggests that working-class whiteness is a gendered and raced phenomenon. See Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy; Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labor: The Workplace, the State, and American Labor Activism, 1865-1925 (New York, 1987); Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (New York, 1991).
12. Elsa Barkley Brown, "What Has Happened Here," 298.
13. Cross, A History of the Labor Movement, 69.
14. Kazin, "Prelude to Kearneyism," 10-12.
15. Ping Chiu, Chinese Labor in California, 1850-1880: An Economic Study (Madison, 1967).
16. Wages are from the 1880 Manuscript Manufacture Census, as cited in Ping Chiu, Chinese Labor in California, 100.
17. Saxton, Indispensable Enemy, 106.
18. Kazin, "Prelude to Kearneyism," 12; Frances Cahn and Valeska Barry, Welfare Activities of Federal, State, and Local Governments in California, 1850-1934 (Berkeley, 1936), 199; Cross, A History of the Labor Movement, 71.
19. Communication from the Mechanics' State Council of California in relation to Chinese immigration (D.W. Gelwicks, State Printer, 1868) in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
20. Chinese workers were regularly depicted as stupid herd animals, devilish children, or pseudo women. See especially, "An Address of the Chinese Question by the Knights of Labor of San Francisco, to their Brethren throughout the United States" (District Assembly No. 53, Knights of Labor, San Francisco, California) in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
21. "The Chinese Must Go: The Labor Agitators, or the Battle for Bread," 24 in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
22. For a discussion of free labor ideology and the development of a white male labor movement see Roediger, Wages of Whiteness.
23. Hon. Aaron A. Sargent, "Immigration of Chinese," speech before the United States Senate, May 2, 1876, 7 in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
24. For a fuller discussion of the riots and their participants see Kazin, "Prelude to Kearneyism;" Shumsky, The Evolution of Political Protest.
25. Shumsky, The Evolution of Political Protest, 17.
26. Cross, A History of the Labor Movement, 88.
27. For a discussion of national anti-Chinese stereotypes see, Stuart Miller, The Unwelcome Immigrant: The American Image of the Chinese, 1785-1882 (Berkeley, 1969). Sander Gilman argues that disease provides a central axis around which societies distinguish the observer as "healthy" and the Other as "diseased" in Disease and Representation: Images of Illness form Madness to AIDS (Ithaca, 1988).
28. "Chinatown Declared a Nuisance!" (Workingmen's Party of California, 1880) in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
29. One sensationalized story related how a young and pious lady, daughter of one of the wealthiest San Francisco families, became seriously ill from teaching in a Chinese Sunday School. According to the published report, physicians concluded that the noxious odors emanating from the bodies of her Chinese students had overwhelmed her delicate digestive and nervous systems. (Sarah E. Henshaw, "California Housekeepers and Chinese Servants," Scribner's Monthly 12 [August, 1876]: 741).
30. "The Chinese Must Go; The Labor Agitators, or the Battle for Bread," 24 in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets; see also "Communication from the Mechanics' State Council of California in relation to Chinese Immigration" (D.W. Gelwicks, State Printer, 1868) in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets . Physicians did in fact testify to the prevalence of rapacious diseases in white boys which they traced directly to Chinese prostitutes before the California Senate Committee on Chinese Immigration. See Chinese Immigration, The Social, Moral and Political Effect of Chinese Immigration (Sacramento, 1876) in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
31. In one illustration, Chinese men, who appear distorted and alien, spit on the laundry they were supposedly cleaning ("Laundry," in The Chinese in California, description of Chinese Life in San Francisco, their habits, morals, and manners, illustrated by Voegtlin [San Francisco, 1880], 78).
32. "The Chinese Must Go: The Labor Agitators, or the Battle for Bread" (G.W. Greene, n.d.), 26 in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
33. There is some evidence that white women did marry Chinese men, though intermarriage had been illegal beginning in May, 1870 when "Mongolian" was added to the miscegenation statue. In 1883, the Morning Call mentioned three cases of intermarriage, and in 1903 the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that there were twenty white women married to Chinese men. See Mary Coolidge, Chinese Immigration, (New York, 1909), 440-441. Coolidge notes, but dismisses, public fears of the monstrosities that would result from these intermarriages. For a more recent discussion see Megumi Dick Osumi, "Asians and California's Anti-Miscegenation Laws," in Asian and Pacific American Experiences: Women's Perspectives, ed. Nobuya Tsuchida (Minneapolis, 1982).
34. Stout, "Chinese Immigration"; also see John Swinton, "The New Issue: the Chinese-American question," (New York, 1870) in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
35. From 1864 to 1865 one in every 16.5 marriages in California ended in divorce. This rate increased, and by 1874-1875 one in every 7.6 marriages ended in divorce. Shumsky, The Evolution of Political Protest, 110-113.
36. See for example The Chinese in California, description of Chinese life in San Francisco, their habits, morals, and manners, illustrated by Voegtlin (San Francisco, 1880), 111-112 in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
37. "The Latest Craze," The Wasp, July 5, 1884.
38. "The Chinese Must Go: The Labor Agitators, or the Battle for Bread," 25 in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
39. Stuart Miller documents sensationalized newspaper reports from East coast periodicals containing stories of white girls being lured into opium dens and the back rooms of laundries. Miller, Unwelcome Immigrant, 184-185.
40. This constant presence of the raced body of the Chinese servant in the middle- and upper-class white home raised racial antagonism to new levels of printed hysteria. See, "The Chinese Must Go. The Labor Agitators; or, the Battle for Bread," 18-19 in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
41. Interestingly, there does not seem to have been much concern that Chinese men posed a violent physical threat to white women in the way that the African American male rapist dominated Southern discourse. Rather than fears of rape and forced intimacy, the overwhelming concern was with decadence, intimacy, and addiction. Sexual perversion on the part of Chinese men came through cunning manipulation and a pretense to femininity, rather than the hyper-manliness of black southern stereotypes.
42. See "Communication from the Mechanics' State Council of California in Relation to Chinese Immigration," (1868) in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
43. "The Chinese Must Go. The Labor Agitators; or, the Battle for Bread," 18-19 in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
44. "An Address of the Chinese Question. By the Knights of Labor of San Francisco, to their Brethren throughout the United States" (Adopted Jan. 4, 1886, by the District Assembly No. 53, Knights of Labor, San Francisco, California) in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
45. The Truth, April 8, 1882; also see The Truth, May 3, 1882 for evidence of the explicit links between working women, Chinese men, and prostitution.
46. The Truth, April 8, 1882.
47. The Truth, Sept. 27, 1882; The Truth, March 29, 1884; The Truth, Feb. 28, 1883.
48. Abby Sage Richardson, "A Plea for Chinese Labor by an American Housewife" Scribner's Monthly 2 (July, 1871): 287.
49. "The Chinese Must Go! But, Who Keeps Them?" The Wasp, May 11, 1878.
50. Rev. O. Gibson, "Chinaman or White man, Which? Reply to Father Buchard," delivered in Platt's Hall, San Francisco, Friday evening March 14, 1873, published at the request of the San Francisco Methodist Preachers' Meeting (San Francisco, 1873).
51. Sarah E. Henshaw, "California Housekeepers and Chinese Servants," Scribner's Monthly 12 (Aug., 1876): 736.
52. For a discussion of Irish women as domestic servants in California, see Hasia R. Diner, Erin's Daughters in America: Irish Immigrant Women in the Nineteenth Century (Baltimore, 1983), 92-94.
53. The calculation of total foreign born immigrants to San Francisco does not include Chinese immigrants, and tallies only those immigrants from England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France, Sweden, and Norway. As was true on the East Coast, Irish immigrants in San Francisco make up the vast majority of white immigrants (25,864), followed by Germans (18,602). Historical Atlas Map of Alameda County (Oakland, 1878; reprint, Fresno, 1976), 165, (I am indebted to Roberta Chavez for this source); Mary Roberts Coolidge, Chinese Immigration, p. 348-50. Coolidge concludes that while there is no evidence to suggest Chinese labor competed with white male labor, Chinese workers did compete with white women for similar positions; most of the women, according to Coolidge, were Irish immigrants.
54. H.A.D. "Employment of Women in San Francisco," Overland Monthly 4, second series (Oct., 1884), 389. For a discussion of the relationship between domestic servants and their employers nationally see David Katzman, Seven Days a Week: Women and Domestic Service in Industrializing America (New York, 1978); Daniel Sutherland, Americans and their Servants: Domestic Service in the United States from 1800 to 1920 (Baton Rouge, 1981); Faye Dudden, Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, CT, 1983).
55. The Wasp, Jan. 19, 1878, 395. This is a rather sarcastic betrayal of working women's efforts to control their working conditions, but its wit is drawn from familiar experiences with Irish women who stipulated the details of their contract.
56. This was a common complaint see Alta, Feb. 26, 1880. A sympathetic reading of the issue appears in Judge Hastings testimony before the Congressional Committee, as quoted in Seward, Chinese Immigration, p. 126-7.
57. Richardson, "A Plea for Chinese Labor," 287.
58. Richardson, "A Plea for Chinese Labor," 288.
59. "Opening Argument of F.A. Bee, before the Joint Committee of the Two Houses of Congress on Chinese Immigration" (San Francisco, 1876), 33.
60. California Labor Exchange report published in Alta, Nov. 12, 1868; Lucile Eaves, A History of California Labor Legislation, with an introductory sketch of the San Francisco labor movement (Berkeley, 1910), 311.
61. Henshaw, "California Housekeepers and Chinese Servants," 739.
62. Alta, Feb. 21, 1880. C. Schmitz, a music teacher, proposed a committee to obtain pledges from every San Francisco household against Chinese labor. The committee would then procure white domestic servants from the Eastern states or from Europe to fill the vacancies, C. Schmitz, "A New Device to rid our State of the Heathen Chinese." Studies of the Women's Trade Union League demonstrate similar attempts at cross-class alliances. See Meredith Tax, The Rising of the Women: Feminist Solidarity and Class Conflict, 1800-1917 (New York, 1980); and Alice Kessler-Harris, "Organizing the Unorganizable: Three Jewish Women and Their Union," Labor History 17 (Winter 1976): 5-23.
63. Cautionary, moral tales in The Hesperian lay poverty and want at the feet of shallow wealthy women who paid niggardly wages to their domestic help. See H.B.D., "Rich and Poor; or, who made thee to differ?" The Hesperian, 2 (April, 1859) and, Calvin B. McDonald, "Women of the West," The Hesperian, 2 (March, 1859). Peggy Pascoe argues that middle class women used relief work to challenge patriarchal systems through moral authority, Peggy Pascoe, Relations of Rescue: The Search for Moral Authority in the American West, 1874-1939 (New York, 1990).
64. "Fleet Street, A Contrast," The Wasp, November 10, 1877.
65. H.A.D. "Employment of Women in San Francisco," Overland Monthly 4, second series (Oct., 1884), 387.
66. The Truth, May 24, 1882; also see, The Truth June 7, 1882.
67. Ryan also refers to the presence of women in these early protests, Ryan, Women in Public, 160-163. Kazin has used arrest records to develop a list of participants and their general socio-economic background, Kazin, "Prelude to Keameyism". Shumsky found greater success using a combination of sources including voting registers, census tables, and city directories, Shumsky, The Evolution of Political Protest.
68. Women's involvement in the national 1877 labor unrest had been the subject of much discussion and concern in individual local papers across the country. Soaping railroad tracks in Hornellsville, fighting in street battles in Chicago, marching in St. Louis, and striking in Galveston, in every community where protest erupted women (including women of color) had been part of the "mob." See, Philip S. Foner, Women and the American Labor Movement vol. 1 (New York, 1979): 163-177.
69. Alta, July 24, 1877.
70. "The Latest Hoodlum Style," The Wasp, October 20, 1877.
71. This metaphor would be picked up a few years later by the Alta in referring to sand lot protesters. In this more conservative newspaper, the allusion to revolution would be entirely negative: "[H]e aroused them to deeds of blood . . . representatives of the 'gentler sex' leading off, and being particularly ferocious, as were their female prototypes in the French Revolution, and during the rule of the Commune some 10 years ago." Alta, Feb. 27, 1880.
72. "Great Anti-Chinese Demonstration in San Francisco, California, July 1870, under the auspices of the Knights of St. Crispin," 1 in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets; "Great Anti-Chinese Demonstration," 2 in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
73. "Great Anti-Chinese Demonstration," 5 in Chinese Immigration Pamphlets.
74. These meetings were viewed as an outgrowth of the WPC and were attended by its officials as well as local officials; the mayor spoke frequently. Sand lot meetings were regularly covered in the local press throughout the 1880s. Anna Smith and other women became increasingly present over the decade, (see for example, Examiner, Feb. 8, 10, 11, 13, 16, 18, 1880; Morning Call, Feb. 12, 20, 1880; Alta, Feb. 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 21, 1880).
75. Anna Smith was the source of much public curiosity. Born in New York City, she migrated steadily west working as a domestic servant, janitress, nurse, and laundress. Arriving in San Francisco in 1875, a widow with a son, Smith found work alternately as a local nurse and as a domestic servant in the rural areas outside of the city. Her life story was reported piecemeal in many San Francisco papers, but the most thorough and sympathetic treatments appeared in the Morning Call, Feb. 18, 1880 and Examiner, Feb. 18, 1880.
76. The argument put forward by employers paralleled that argued by white working men against Chinese immigrant laborers who planned on returning to China to be married and thus were also not permanent members of the labor force.
77. William EG. Shanks, "Chinese Skilled Labor," Scribbner's Monthly 2 (July 1871), 499.
78. Mary Coolidge reaches a similar conclusion: "The Chinese competed, if at all, chiefly with women and girls, but when it is remembered that there were two men to every woman in California at this time and even in San Francisco three men to every two women, it is difficult to imagine that any great number remained long unmarried or out of work." Coolidge, Chinese Immigration, 102.
79. Morning Call, Feb. 18, 1880; San Francisco Examiner, Feb. 18, 1880. Similarly, Max Morgenthau, part owner of the Mission and Pioneer woolen mills, a jute factory, and a candle and soap factory, testified that in his own experience white women had proved unreliable and uncommitted workers. (Testimony taken before a Committee of the Senate of the State of California hearings in San Francisco, Chinese Immigration, The Social, Moral and Political Effect of Chinese Immigration [Sacramento, 1876], 66-68.)
80. Alta, Feb. 24, 1880.
81. Morning Call, Feb. 18, 1880.
82. Morning Call, Feb. 12, 1880.
83. Alta, Feb. 25, 1880.
84. The Truth, May 24, 1882.
85. Alta, Feb. 13, 1880, Feb. 14, 1880, Feb. 17, 1880. Reporters were inconsistent at best in their spelling of participants names. For example, Mrs. Heisler was sometimes Mrs. Hausler; Anne E. Smith was also Anna F. Smith; and Mrs. Sergeant was occasionally Mrs. Sargent. If indeed her name was Mrs. Sargent, she may have been the same Mrs. Sargent active in California's suffrage movement and married to Aaron Sargent, a California senator and a prominent proponent of Asian exclusion. Although the newspapers never directly interviewed Mrs. Sergeant/Sargent, the possibility that she may be the suffrage leader presents an early example of cross class gender coalitions among white women. Moreover, Sergeant/Sargent's attendance at sand-lot rallies points to the possibility that middle-class women may have been active in public demonstrations on behalf of white working women.
86. Alta, Feb. 21, 1880; also Morning Call, Feb. 19, 1880.
87. Langley's San Francisco Directory (San Francisco, 1881).
88. The Truth, June 7, 1882.
89. Susan Englander argues that middle class suffragists actively sought working-class women's assistance in the campaign for women's suffrage in California. Susan Englander, Class Conflict and Coalition in the California Woman Suffrage Movement, 1907-1912: The San Francisco Wage Earners' Suffrage League (Lewiston, New Jersey, 1992).
90. Englander, Class Conflict and Coalition.
91. Shumsky, The Evolution of Political Protest, 201.
92. Susan Englander links women's participation in the labor movement to their activism in the anti-Asian movements: "The anti-Asian movement provided San Francisco white women with an entree into the trade union establishment, while ongoing anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese activity of female unionists served to reinforce their solidarity with the white male union membership of the San Francisco Labor Council." Englander, Class Conflict and Coalition, 51.
93. Englander, Class Conflict and Coalition, 42; The Truth, May 19, 1883; Lillian Matthews, Women in the Trade Unions in San Francisco (Berkeley, 1913).
94. The California Bureau of Labor Statistics reported boys' weekly factory wage double the wage received by girls, $5-$12 for boys and $4-$9 for girls. Chinese employees were treated the most unfairly, and received $1-6 per week. The competition was framed in terms of employment rather then equal wages; thus both Chinese men and white women fought over the lowest end of the wage scale.
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|Author:||Gardner, Martha Mabie|
|Publication:||Journal of Social History|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1999|
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