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Main Activities and Achievements of the China Hand Laundry Alliance

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Word of a great nation of wealth arose. A land where lives can be turned in the opposite direction. A prosperous nation with electrifying cities, accepting soon-to-be families from around the globe. The US is seen as the world renowned land of opportunity. Since the end of WWI, our nation has been regarded as a world power. Immigrants, those who leave their home country in search of a more suitable place to reside, give America its image as a cultural melting pot. In the early 1900s, the United States experienced huge waves of immigrants. Push factors such as “crop failure, land and job shortages, rising taxes, and famine” and the pull factor of America’s economic opportunity allowed for this boom of immigrants. Unfortunately, America’s citizens welcomed these new people with disdain and prejudice. Chinese immigrants, especially, fell victim to discrimination, prejudice, and racially induced violence. To combat this, organizations such as the Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance were formed in order to preserve the rights of overseas Chinese.

The first significant large influx of overseas Chinese happened in the early to mid 1800s. These people made their mark on American soil, hoping to get rich from the famous Gold Rush. With a lack of English skills and knowledge on European culture, many found it hard to assimilate. Tensions rose as white miners demanded for an advantage in the competition. In 1852, a special miner’s tax was implemented, targeting foreigners who knew little English. Furthermore, the fact that it was common to get swindled by a fake tax collector made life rough for these Chinese immigrants. Even after the Gold Rush, many Chinese saw great opportunity in participating in the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. However, Americans only saw them as cheap and expendable. Those who worked on the railroad were primarily Chinese, since they were willing to work for the least price. To their dismay, the project was very treacherous. They would have to build over rivers, canyons, and ultimately, through the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. Many laborers died due to horrible weather conditions and through the use of nitroglycerin, an unstable explosive that can detonate in the slightest of jolts. Only 2 years after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Chinese Massacre of 1871 killed 20 innocents when a mob of 500 non-Chinese raided a Chinatown. Even after all of this hardship, the United States still had a negative sentiment towards these immigrants. Into the 1900s, numerous acts were passed to restrict the rights of Chinese immigrants. The Chinese Exclusion Act was placed in order to prohibit all Chinese immigration into the United States. Taking action to protect the rights of their fellow Chinese, organizations were established to encourage the resistance against sinophobia in the United States.

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The Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance, or CHLA, was formed in 1933 and served to protect the civil rights of Chinese immigrants. Being a laundry worker was a common stereotype for Chinese immigrants in the early 1900s. The CHLA embraced this fact and turned it into a community where they could support each other. Their slogan was “To Save China, To Save Ourselves” indicating in their communal bond despite all the troubles in the past and still to come. A formation of such organization alludes to their faith and determination to fulfill a safe and prosperous livelihood for generations to come. The fact that early Chinese launderers would typically work up to 16 hours a day further proves their efforts for a better life. The unfair circumstances them and their predecessors experienced only fueled their will even further. In contrast to the many gangs and crime-filled organizations that had formed in the Chinese community consequently from anti-Chinese sentiment, CHLA worked as a peaceful labor organization, strictly advocating for Chinese civil rights.

Their first success was when the New York City Board of Alderman targeted these laundry workers, in an effort to put them out of business. Under the influence of white laundry workers who wanted less competition, a law was passed which required a 1000$ security bond and a US citizenship in order to operate a laundry. By funding for an attorney, The CHLA successfully lowered the security bond to 100$ and exempted “orientals” from the prohibition. This success was widespread in the Chinese community, and many decided to opt in donations to further promote the advocacy for Chinese civil rights.

The CHLA worked to make the American Dream possible for Chinese immigrants. Their representation of such a despised ethnic group highlights the valor and determination many of these immigrants held. Their efforts would then influence the Asian American movement, which sparked social and political change in American society. Though bearing the name of a humble and small profession, the CHLA made a large leap in the advancement towards Asian American civil liberty.

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Main Activities and Achievements of the China Hand Laundry Alliance. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/main-activities-and-achievements-of-the-china-hand-laundry-alliance/
“Main Activities and Achievements of the China Hand Laundry Alliance.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/main-activities-and-achievements-of-the-china-hand-laundry-alliance/
Main Activities and Achievements of the China Hand Laundry Alliance. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/main-activities-and-achievements-of-the-china-hand-laundry-alliance/> [Accessed 5 Feb. 2023].
Main Activities and Achievements of the China Hand Laundry Alliance [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 Feb 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/main-activities-and-achievements-of-the-china-hand-laundry-alliance/
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