Printable Version

Women Migrants
Digital History ID 11


Annotation: There were few opportunities to earn wages for Chinese women migrants. A few became cooks, housekeepers, laundresses, or seamstresses, but many others were forced to sign coercive labor contracts trapped them into lives of prostitution. The 1870 census reported that 61 percent of the 3,536 Chinese women in California were employed as prostitutes.

Document: The contractee Xin Jin became indebted to her master/mistress for food and passage to San Francisco. Since she is without funds, she will voluntarily work as a prostitute at Tan Fu’s palce for four and one-half years for an advance of 1,205 yuan (U.S. $524) to pay this debt. There shall be no interest on the money and Xin Jin shall receive no wages. At the expiration of the contract, Xin Jin shall be free to do as she pleases.. Until then, she shall first secure the master/mistress’s permission if a customer asks to take her out. If she has the four loathsome diseases she shall be returned within 100 days; beyond that time the procurer has no responsibility. Menstruation disorder is limited to one month’s rest only. If Xin Jin becomes sick at any time for more than 15 days, she shall work one month extra; if she becomes pregnant, she shall work one year extra. Should Xin Jin run away before her term is out, she shall pay whatever expense is incurred in finding and returning her to the brothel. This is a contract to be retained by the master/mistress as evidence of the agreement. Receipt of 1205 yuan by Ah Yo. Thumb print of Xin Jin in the contractee. Eighth month 11th day of the 12th year of Guang-zu (1886).

Source: Carol Berkin and Mary Beth Norton, Women of America (Boston, 1979), 243-44.

Copyright 2021 Digital History