West Virginia University Historical Review


Often forgotten in light of later pieces of anti-Chinese legislation, the Page Act of 1875 and the anti-Chinese prostitution movement were critical in creating a legal precedent for racially exclusionary immigration laws. Religious leaders in California aggressively campaigned against Chinese prostitution by creating rehabilitation centers for former Chinese prostitutes, investigating Chinese women arriving at the port, and focusing media attention on the issue. Concentrated specifically on Chinese prostitution, religious leaders created an implicit association between Chinese women and prostitution while ignoring the larger white prostitution trade. The potential for Chinese women to give birth to Chinese American citizens also made Chinese women a threat to America’s racial hierarchy. By branding all Chinese women as prostitutes and Chinese men as purveyors of the trade, political leaders were able to justify racially exclusionary laws barring Chinese people from the United States.

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