Relative Status of Men and Women

Because sons were favored over daughters, boys and girls had different status within the family. Before public schools became available in China, opportunities for education were mostly for boys. When a family or kin group decided to send a member overseas, the person selected was usually male. Except for the prostitutes and slave girls of the late 19th century, before 1950 most Chinese women immigrants came to the United States as dependents of their fathers or husbands. Only after 1965 did Chinese American women with U.S. citizenship gain the privilege of sponsoring their own partners, parents, and siblings.

Because few of them were gainfully employed outside the home before coming to the United States, the status of women within the family was low. A male head of the family was usually the decision-maker. However, a married woman did have some control over her children. She supervised the young children's daily activities, taught the daughters proper behaviors and domestic skills, and worked to arrange the children's marriages when they were older. Once she raised her son to maturity and found him a wife, she became the mother-in-law of the new wife and could exercise supervisory power over her.

The status of Chinese women greatly improved after they were able to work outside the home, in both China and the United States. As immigrants, women often had to work outside the home and contribute to the family income, which also helped improve their status within the family. Many immigrant women became business partners of their husbands; their labor and earnings were indispensable to their family.

The custom of patrilocal residence was no longer practical once the immigrants came to America; this helped improve the mother-daughter relationship. Mutual support between immigrant women and their daughters helped the younger generation of Chinese American women to have a career and family at the same time.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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