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Chronological Reasoning and Causation

Life in a Laundry: Chinese in Pre-World War II Yonkers

  1. Load Johnnie Lew's Chinese Laundry, Washington D.C. in Main Image Viewer
  2. Load City of Yonkers Directory Listing Chinese Laundries, 1936 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

This question is based on the accompanying documents. It has been created in order to test your ability to work with historical documents. Some of these documents have been edited for the purposes of this question. As you analyze the documents, try to understand the source of the document and any point of view that is presented in the document.

Historical context: In 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in Sacramento, California. Great numbers of Chinese immigrants entered the western U.S. in the gold rush that followed. When the gold rush ended, Chinese laborers worked on the transcontinental railroad, and thousands more were encouraged to immigrate as laborers. After the railroad was completed, tension increased as Chinese immigrant laborers competed for jobs with white labor. White labor retaliated with discrimination and mob violence, driving many Chinese eastward to New York. By 1880, a growing Chinatown was flourishing in New York City, and Chinese businesses began in other cities of New York. In 1882, Congress passed Exclusion Laws that prevented the immigration of Chinese laborers. The prejudice and discrimination that Chinese immigrants faced made it difficult for them to find a job. In response, many set up restaurants or hand laundries. Laundries took little capital to establish and classified the operators as merchants, an allowed immigration category under Exclusion laws.

Task: Using information from the following documents and your own knowledge of history, answer the questions that follow each document in Part A. Your answers to the questions will help you to accomplish the writing assignment given in Part B.

Part A Short-Answer Questions

Directions: Read and analyze the documents and answer the short-answer questions in the space provided. Prepare for the reading of the document(s) by studying vocabulary definitions that are given before each document.

Part B

Using information from at least five of the documents in Part A to support your thinking, and your own knowledge of history, write an essay describing the experience of Chinese laundry operators and workers in Yonkers. Explain the reason for the development of Chinese laundry businesses, the hardships of this type of work, and why most of them closed after World War II. Your essay should be well-organized and include an introduction, at least three paragraphs, and a conclusion.