While major American cities like San Francisco, Seattle, New York, and Boston were home to large Chinese populations in the early twentieth century, Chinese people in the entire state of Maine totaled little over one hundred, most of whom operated laundries.
Toy Len Chin (1892-1993) of Guangdong, China moved Maine at the age of 29, three years after her 1919 proxy marriage to Dogon Goon, a laundryman from Portland. While she waited for her new husband to be able to afford to arrange their travels to America, she hand stitched her trousseau—including four “mud silk” suits she brought with her to Maine in 1921.
Toy Len’s immigration as a Chinese woman was a rarity, because the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—which barred Chinese immigration—was still in place. Chinese people already in the U.S. could stay, but were prohibited from becoming U.S. citizens, and from bringing wives and families to America to join them. Non-citizens who left the U.S. could not return.
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