Originally designed to prohibit Chinese contract workers and prostitutes from entering the United States, this federal law eventually excluded Asian women in general.
On February 10, 1875, California congressman
An amendment to the law prohibited individuals from engaging in the
Chinese woman with her children and brother-in-law awaiting a streetcar in San Francisco around 1904. The sedate black outfit worn by the woman is typical of the dress worn by married Chinese women who wanted to distinguish themselves from prostitutes.
An elaborate bureaucratic network established to carry out the Page Law’s gender-specific exclusions was a catalyst for the decline in Chinese immigration rates. American consulate officials supported by American, Chinese, and British commercial, political, and medical services made up the law’s implementation structure. Through intelligence gathering, interrogation, and physical examinations of applicants, the consulate hierarchy ferreted out undesirable applicants for immigration and those suspected of engaging in illegal human trafficking.
This investigative procedure was complicated. Any characteristic or activity that could be linked, even in the most remote sense, to prostitution became grounds for denial of the right to immigrate. Most applications to immigrate came from women from the lower economic strata of Chinese society; low economic status was linked to prostitution and therefore became a reason for immigration exclusion. Navigating language barriers through official interviews aimed at evaluating personal character often produced an atmosphere of rigid interrogation, bringing subsequent denial of the right to immigrate. In addition, passing stringent physical examinations performed by biased health care officials was often impossible.
Regardless of the personalities of the consulate officials in charge of implementing the Page Law, the results were the same: The number of Chinese who immigrated to the United States decreased dramatically between the 1875 enactment of the law and the enactment of its successor, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
Foner, Philip, and Daniel Rosenberg. Racism, Dissent, and Asian Americans from 1850 to the Present. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. Peffer, George Anthony. “Forbidden Families: Emigration Experiences of Chinese Women Under the Page Law, 1875-1882.” Journal of American Ethnic History 6 (Fall, 1986): 28-46.
Bayard-Zhang Treaty of 1888
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
Chinese Exclusion Cases
Citizens Committee to Repeal Chinese Exclusion
History of immigration, 1783-1891