The law provided the means to entrap and traffic women but also made possible their escape.
In the 19th-century American West, sexual commerce was common within the Chinese community, so common that it directly or indirectly shaped the lives of all female Chinese migrants. As a result, Chinese women and girls led deeply restricted lives. Traffickers sought to control and contain Chinese women, but so too did local law enforcement, immigration officials, missionaries, and husbands. By studying Chinese female runaways—and asking what they wished to escape, how they fled, and where they sought refuge—this talk will consider the intertwining forces that conditioned Chinese women’s lives.