A woman's immigration experience can be quite different from that of a man. However, in order to comprehend this experience, I believe that it is most important to understand the specific circumstances surrounding her immigration. What were her motivations to immigrate? What context does she find herself in once she immigrates? What is her social-economic background? Did she come by herself or with family members or friends? Is she married and does she have children? Only with this information can we begin to make assumptions about and comprehend her immigration experience. What I'd really like to focus on is the similarities and difference between the Chinese and Mexican women immigrants, by comparing what kinds of labor they performed, if they organized to improve their living conditions, and what sort of obstacles they faced. Many Chinese women who immigrated to the United States, specifically California thought that the transition from China to the United States would benefit them greatly. Unfortunately as a result, the Chinese male / female ratio in America was as high as 19 to 1 in 1860; 13 to 1 in 1870; and 27 to 1 in 1890.
So in other words their seemed to be a sexual imbalance, combined with anti-miscegenation laws that prohibited marriages between Chinese and whites, created a need for Chinese prostitutes (Judy Yung, 195). The restrictive lives of Chinese American women began to change in the twentieth century. A growing number of Chinese women began to free themselves of social restrictions, working outside the home, appearing in public places (202). Many Chinese women where forced to work in factories also known as sweat shops, many where housekeepers or maids.
" She said they would work 10 hours a day in the lead fumes or next to ovens hearted to 800 degrees. Their is was low, and they have little or no health insurance to help them deal with medical problems that may be related to their working conditions ( web). Working conditions for immigrant Asian women were very poor, and until the women learned English and learned about their rights they had few opportunities for improvements. The reasons why the women had these horrible jobs and working conditions was because they were not respected and a huge reason was quite frankly because they were women. When I began my research on 19 th century Mexico city women, it did not take me long to realize that what Mexican women were supposed to do, and what they actually did were sometimes quite different. Mexican women in the past were supposedly sweet but passive and powerless human beings, whose lives revolved around family and home, and who were completely subordinated to men.
This, in fact, was the cultural ideal. " A famous Spanish proverb declares, "El hombre en la calle, la mujer en la casa, " that is, "men in the street and women at home" (web). Although a huge gap almost always exists between the "supposed to's" and actual behavior all around the world, we have too often believed that in Latin America things really were that way. That Latin America was more traditional, that the separation of male and female roles was indeed greater there.
Among some of the labor jobs the Mexican women performed where mostly blue collar jobs. "These women have been overwhelmingly segregated into semi-skilled, assembly line positions. Garment and food processing firms historically have hired Mexicans for seasonal line tasks. Whether sewing slacks or canning peaches, these workers have generally been separated from the year round higher paid male employees" (Vicki L. Ruiz, 60). Many times it was hard for the women to even put food on the tables for their families.
So during the 1930's the canning labor force included daughters, mothers and grandmothers who would pull their money together in order to help feed their family. The Mexican women worked together to enter as market members of a family wage economy. A lot of the times the daughters of the families would quite commonly brake away from their families to have some freedom. They would meet friends at work and decide to room together. The women usually did not get paid by the hour like the men, but engaged in piece work. Life was tough for the Mexican women at the workplace.
Often they would have to stand in the same spots for weeks, months or sometimes longer. The women workers... " often developed friendships crossing family and ethnic lines" (61). They Chinese worked very hard to organize the low-income immigrant Asian women to improve their living conditions. "When a sweatshop in California closed a few years ago, some of the displaced seamstresses sought help from the Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA) " (web). Many of the women became leaders and together they were able to gain considerable support from the public, media, churches, and country and city officials.
Also to work around the... "traditional submissiveness of Chinese women and their husbands objections to the empowerment of these women, AIWA holds an annual celebration for the women and their families, and AIWA makes an annual report at the event" ( web). There are also classes that the women go to, to learn about workers rights and share the information with their husbands who are immigrants also. By including the husbands in the discussions, it has led to growing support for the AIWA among the men. This was just the start for the women of china, they have organize many other organizations to help each other fight the discrimination and stop the negative status that they have all received. Stopping the mistreatment was high on the list for the Mexican women.
"In 1937 a group of workers tried to establish an American Federation of Labor union, but a stable local failed to develop" (Vicki L. Ruiz, 64). It seemed to be much harder for the Mexican women to organize a group to improve their living conditions. But they finally got it together two years later. Cal San employees renewed their trade union efforts, this time under the banner of UCAPAWA-CIO. This union lived a relatively short life 1937-1950.
The women thought that their voices would never be heard and that they would never get an equal chance to be heard. It wasn't until the knights of labor was introduced that they came up with this motto " An injury to one is an injury to all" The women even started a twenty-four hour, seven day a week picket line outside their cannery plants. These women weren't playing around this time, it was finally time for the factory owners to hear what they had to say. Eventually they stopped the picketing and...
" although they failed to win the elimination of the piece rate system, they did receive a five-cent wage increase" (66). Between the two groups of women the Chinese women faced the hardest obstacles possible. By the middle of the century, Chinese women had been playing a subservient role for more than 2000 years. "In a woman's lifetime, she was supposed to obey her father when she was a girl, obey her husband when she got married, and obey her son when her husband died" (web). Most of the limited number of Chinese women in America in the last decades of the 19 th century, both new country and their native culture offered few options and little hope. Even after the Civil War, most of the Chinese women in the U.
S. were brought here as virtual slaves to work in brothels and saloons catering to the bachelor communities of Chinese men. For them it was a... "cruel life of subjugation prisoners of their genders, poverty and lack of status" (web).
The women were also exposed to barbaric practices, such as polygamy, slavery, arranged marriages, and especially foot binding. Foot binding. These two words bring up images of twisted deformed feet, pain and torture. It seems that everyone has heard of foot binding. The words are self-explanatory. Foot binding was an attempt to stop the growth of the feet.
"It usually began somewhere between the ages of four and seven" (web). The Chinese women went through some very painful experiences but seemed to overcome most of them. They tried very hard to change the rules a little. Changed the rules to better suit themselves. Fortunately the Mexican women they did not have to overcome quite as many obstacles as the Chinese women.
But nevertheless they were still looked upon as only a wife and a mother. They were really discouraged not to work, their husbands wanted them to say at home with the children. But one fact I have learned was the women were given more protection and rights through the legal system in Mexico rather than in the U. S. The Mexican women had more freedom than the Chinese women did.
They had more freedom in the workplace and at home. Woman's immigration experience can be quite different from that of a man. It has proved to be during the 19 th and 20 th centuries. Both Chinese and Mexican women had little or no rights, but both races worked and strived to organize better living conditions. Not only did they do this for themselves but for the daughters, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Although there is still discrimination towards both races in the U.
S. today, which I hope can change one day, but these women have done a lot of good for women and giving them a voice so that they can have a equal say in their lives.