Sunday, August 01, 2021


Article Index

A. Before the Start of Immigration

Prior to the arrival of the first Chinese women in the United States, images of them circulated . . . through travel accounts. In 1830 Americans were given lurid accounts of bizarre Chinese customs [and] sexual aberrations. The reports portrayed the Chinese as heathen, crafty, dishonest, and marginal members of the human race.

The first recorded Chinese women came to the United States in the early nineteenth century and were portrayed as curious exotic objects. These women included Afong Moy, who traveled through the country in 1841 as part of a sideshow, and Pwan Yekoo, who traveled with Barnum's Chinese Museum. Yekoo was described in the New York Times in 1850 as prepared to exhibit her charming self, her curious retinue, and her fairy feet . . . to an admiring and novelty-loving public. The description indicates the American public's fascination with Asian women. Although descriptions of Chinese women focused on their physical distinction from American women, the descriptions did not focus on race or morality.

Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law