Los Angeles Public Library is pleased to present a rare look at Chinese-American women's history, told through legal cases fought in the supreme courts of the U.S. and its states. Using the personal collection of Dr. Chang C. Chen, Herstory features rare photographs and case descriptions of efforts by Chinese-American women to gain legal standing in the U.S.
Starting in 1852, the cases document women who fought for equal treatment in the eyes of the law and for citizenship and immigration rights. One 1874 case from San Francisco describes a group of recent immigrants who were defined as "lewd and immoral" due to their style of dress, and were set to be deported. The women fought back and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their favor, stating that the California laws were in conflict with federal immigration laws and the women were released. In Tape v. Hurley, 66 Cal. 473 (1885), a landmark case in the California Supreme Court in which the Court found the exclusion of a Chinese American student from public school based on her ancestry unlawful. The Court ruled that Chinese-American children had a right to public education and to attend public schools.
The exhibit is a fascinating look at the ordinary people who fought for their rights, and, in doing so, helped shape a new world for Chinese-Americans in the U.S. The exhibition is provided to the Library by Dr. Chang C Chen, who has worked tirelessly to document the written legal history of Chinese-Americans.