Category Archives: File

Asian & Pacific Islander American Heritage Month

Asian & Pacific Islander American Heritage Month

Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month got its start as a congressional bill, inspired by Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Week, with the mission of bringing attention to the contributions Asian and Pacific Islander Americans have made to the history and culture of the United States.

But did you know the whole thing was inspired by the work of two dedicated women? Jeanie Jew and Ruby Moy, who work on Capital Hill, spearheaded a campaign to get congressional support for their cause.

As a result of their lobbying, in June 1977 Reps. Frank Horton (NY) and Norman Y. Mineta (CA) introduced a resolution that called for the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The following month, senators Daniel Inouye (HI) and Spark Matsunaga (HI) introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both were passed. On October 5, 1978, President Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating an annual celebration.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed an extension turning it into a month-long celebration. And in 1992, the official designation of May as Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month was signed into law.

Over the years we have had the honor of recognizing many Asian American and Pacific Islander American women in our list of Women’s History Honorees:

Chien-Shiung Wu, 1984
Queen Liliuokalani, 1985, 1989
Patsy Mink, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2002
Tye Leung Shulze, 1987
Jade Snow Wong, 1991
Tsuyako “Sox” Kitashima, 1995
Alice Fong Yu, 1997
Maya Lin, 1999, 2001
Yoshiko Uchida, 1999
Yuri Kochiyama, 2003
Maxine Hong Kingston, 2004
Mary Tsukamoto, 2006
Flossie Wong-Staal, 2013
Jaida Im, 2014
Tammy Duckworth, 2014
Judy Yung, 2015
Karen Narasaki, 2016
Saru Jayaraman, 2018
Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, 2020
Terry Ao Minnis, 2020
Wilhelmina Dowsett, 2020

[Courtesy of the National Women’s History Alliance 730 2nd St., PO Box 469, Santa Rosa, CA 95402]

Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee (1896-1966) 2020 National Women’s History Alliance Honoree

Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee is a deceased honoree of the National Women’s History Alliance for her work on women’s suffrage. This March we are celebrating Women’s History Month and the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Although Dr. Lee was unable to vote because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, she worked to see the passing of women’s suffrage in New York State.
This blog entry is to honor Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee. She does not have a file at the National Archives at Seattle. Her file 12,943, box 68 is at National Archives at New York City. She does appear on a passenger list when she arrived in Seattle on 30 September 1937.
The following entry and sketch are from National Women’s History Alliance
Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee – 1896-1966

Mabel Ping-Hua Lee
Mabel Ping-Hua Lee

Suffragist, member of the Women’s Political Equality League [photo]
Mabel Ping-Hua Lee was born in 1896 in Guangzhou, China. The daughter of a Baptist minister, Lee emigrated to the United States and attended Barnard College and Columbia University. Upon earning her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1921, she became the first Chinese American woman to obtain that degree in economics. Her dissertation, The Economic History of China, was published in 1921.
Lee had a long history of suffrage activism and believed achieving votes for women was an important step for both American and Chinese women. At the age of 16 she participated in the 1912 suffrage parade in New York where she helped lead this parade while on horseback. Lee was a member of the Women’s Political Equality League and in 1915 gave an important speech titled “China’s Submerged Half” which was covered by the New York Times. In this speech she said:
“The welfare of China and possibly its very existence as an independent nation depends on rendering tardy justice to its womankind. For no nation can ever make real and lasting progress in civilization unless its women are following close to its men if not actually abreast with them.”
Lee’s work on behalf of suffrage successfully led to the 1917 passage of women’s suffrage in the state of New York. However due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, Lee herself was not allowed to vote that year and it is unknown whether she ever voted. After the death of her father, Lee served as head of the First Chinese Baptist Church located in Chinatown in New York City starting in 1924. She then went on to create a Chinese Christian Center, which provided kindergarten and English classes as well as a health clinic.
Dr. Mabel Lee is now being recognized for her pioneering work in advocating for both women’s rights and rights for Asian Americans. Today the Mabel Lee Memorial Post office located at 6 Doyers Street in New York City is named in her honor.

Aileen Cumyow – Canadian Chinese with a Seattle Case file

Women’s History Month – Aileen’s Chinese Case File

Check out Linda Yip’s Past Presence website. It includes everything you would like to know about the Canadian Chinese Exclusion Act and genealogy in general.
The March 8, 2020 entry for Women’s History Month features Aileen Won Cumyow.
Aileen, a resident of Vancouver, B.C. was applying to visit Seattle, Washington in June 1925.

Affidavit of Aileen Won Cumyow, 4 Jun 1925, sworn before William Green, Notary Public for Vancouver. RG 85, Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, Seattle District, File 7022/9-I, Aileen Won Cumyow, Chinese Showboat Co. Page 43 of 49 total documents.

Linda Yip obtained Aileen Won Cumyow’s file from the National Archives at Seattle and wrote up Aileen’s story. It is a fascinating read.

Canadian Chinese Head Tax (1885-1947) & Canadian Chinese Exclusion Act (1923-1947)

The Canadian government passed the Chinese Immigration Act in 1885, after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Chinese immigrants entering Canada had to pay a $50 head tax. It was the first time in Canadian history that a group was obligated to pay a tax based solely on their country of origin. In 1900, the head tax was raised to $100, then increased up to $500 per person in 1903. About 81,000 Chinese immigrants paid the head tax between 1885 and 1923.

Students, merchants (except laundry, restaurant and retail operators), diplomats, and Canadian-born Chinese returning from education in China were exceptions to the exclusion.

In 1923 the Canadian government passed a more restrictive Chinese Exclusion Act which banned all Chinese immigration to Canada. It was repealed in 1947. Because of a quota, few Chinese were allowed into Canada until immigration reform in 1967.1
The Canadian Chinese Exclusion Act was similar to the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act but the U.S. did not have a huge head tax on Chinese immigrants.

See more about Canadian immigration, the head tax, and exclusion at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Chinese Head Tax Museum
Chinese Head Tax Museum

Read about the Chinese Head Tax Monument at Municipal Cemetery, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada. It was commissioned by the Westman Chinese Association with financial support from the Government of Canada, Province of Manitoba, City of Brandon, Rotary Club of Brandon, Whitehead Foundation, and various private donors. Created by noted Manitoba sculptor Peter Sawatzky, the monument was unveiled during a ceremony on 26 June 2011.

[Thanks to Velda and Ron Schei for telling me about the Chinese Head Tax Monument in Brandon, Manitoba.]

  1. Arlene Chan, “Chinese Immigration Act, The Canadian Encyclopedia, published online 7 March 2017, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/chinese-immigration-act

Summary of Information on Closure of the National Archives at Seattle

Hao-Jan Chang, left, Trish Hackett Nicola and Lily Eng look at a temporary passport from 1912 at the National Archives at Seattle Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

This is a summary of information on the closure of the National Archives at Seattle

https://www.sos.wa.gov/archives/nara-seattle-closure.aspx?fbclid=IwAR0-DOFq4HyIAuN9OL80PKXHCsipjpbeoqOlf32KkhhWwPtd6L3L8D0MubA

This has been a stressful time for the National Archives at Seattle employees, the volunteers, researchers, genealogists, historians, and anyone who respects and values preserving history.

In the next week or so I will write more about what this means for the users of Chinese Exclusion Act case files and give you more ideas about where to write or call to express your views.

We just got two more volunteers to work on indexing the Exclusion files–we now have seven volunteers but it would probably take about 100 to finish indexing before the records at boxed up and shipped away.

I will start making regular blog postings soon.
Trish

Trish Hackett Nicola
CEA Blog Editor

Closure of the National Archives in Seattle

On Monday, January 13, 2020, the staff at the National Archives at Seattle received notification that within the next four years, the facility will be closed, and the records will be transferred to the NARA facilities in Kansas City, Missouri or Riverside, CA.

The National Archives at Seattle  has 50,000 case files from the Chinese Exclusion Act from Chinese who entered the U.S. through the ports of Seattle, Sumas, Port Townsend,  Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Vancouver, B.C. from 1882 to 1943.  A dedicated staff of local volunteers is indexing these files.  If these records are moved 1,000 miles away, this valuable work will end.

Anyone who has ever gotten research assistance from the National Archives staff appreciates their vast institutional knowledge of the records. This will be lost if the National Archives is closed and moved from the Pacific Northwest.

More background information on the closure can be found at Save National Archives at Seattle.

For a thorough discussion of the proposed closure and updates go to Feliks Banel’s My Northwest online column

See Public Buildings Reform Board (PBRB) for the complete report. Submit your comments to the PBRB at  fastainfo@pbrb.gov

Call the National Archives at 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or contact them at archives.gov/contact

Please call your senators, congressional representatives and let them know you want these records to remain at the National Archives in Seattle.

Thank you.
Trish Hackett Nicola
Blog Editor

 

 

Proposed 492% fee increase for USCIS documents – Submit comments before 16 December 2019

U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently proposed a 492% increase in fees required to access historical records held by the USCIS Genealogy Program. Many of these records should already be publicly accessible.

  1. These include the A-files for records numbered under 8 million.
  2. Current fee $65 for a search, which has no guarantee of results
  3. Proposed fee $240! + $385 for the paper file.

1912 Gong Kay photo1912 Photo of Gong Kay from A-File at National Archives at San Francisco

Summary of the Issues:

  • Access: Fees – starting at $240 and up to $625 for a single file
  • Transparency: USCIS proposes a raise in fees with virtually no explanation.
  •  Efficiency: These files should already be at the National Archives (NARA). Some already exist at NARA but are withheld from the public due to restrictions placed by USCIS.
  •  Visa Files and Registry Files, both subject to the proposed $625 total fee, became eligible for transfer to NARA in April 2019. These records should already be available to the public at NARA.
  •  Alien Registration Forms, subject to the proposed $240 fee, exist on microfilm at NARA but remain unavailable because of a USCIS restriction. A-Files of immigrants born more than 100 years ago should be at NARA, as per its 2009 schedule.

Make your voice heard in 3 easy steps:

Step 1: Review the proposed rule here, and jump to the Genealogy Program section here.

Step 2: Write your comments on the issues. See https://www.recordsnotrevenue.com/#conversationstarters for thoughts on how to begin.

Step 3: Send your comments BEFORE 16 December 2019 to

AND
• Send a copy of your comments to your US Senators and Representative, and refer to DHS Docket No. USCIS-2019-0010. Tell them you care about preserving access to federal records!

Sign up to stay informed on this important effort: and learn more at  https://www.recordsnotrevenue.com/

Update from the Save Our National Archives group, led by Jeanie Low and Jennie Lew: USCIS has finally released the A-files for people born between 1911 and 1915 to the National Archives at San Bruno. NARA already has all the A-files for people who passed through San Francisco and were born from 1910 and earlier available, and they are indexed at NARA’s website.

Write your comments to USCIS then request your ancestors’ A- or C-files in case the price does skyrocket!

 

Grace Chen by Cathy Chen Lee

The following is an example of how a Chinese Exclusion Act case file can add to your family history. Cathy Lee had numerous family stories about her great-aunt, Grace Chen, but there were many dates and places missing. Once Grace’s Chinese Exclusion Act file was found, Cathy searched additional archives and libraries and found more documents about her aunt. The article below is the culmination of the Cathy’s research and the fascinating story of the life of Grace Chen. Go to article at Grace Chen by Cathy Lee

“Grace Chen, Section Six Precis photo”1928, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Grace Chen case file, Seattle Box 1102, file 9666/2-7.