The White Devil's Daughters Summary and Reviews

The White Devil's Daughters

The Women Who Fought Slavery in San Francisco's Chinatown

by Julia Flynn Siler

The White Devil's Daughters by Julia Flynn Siler X
The White Devil's Daughters by Julia Flynn Siler
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Book Summary

A revelatory history of the trafficking of young Asian girls that flourished in San Francisco during the first hundred years of Chinese immigration (1848-1943) and an in-depth look at the "safe house" that became a refuge for those seeking their freedom.

Beginning in 1874, the Occidental Mission Home on the edge of San Francisco's Chinatown served as a gateway to freedom for thousands of enslaved and vulnerable young Chinese women and girls. Run by a courageous group of female abolitionists who fought the slave trade in Chinese women, it survived earthquakes, fire, bubonic plague, and violence directed against its occupants and supporters. With compassion and an investigative historian's sharp eye, Siler tells the story of both the abolitionists who challenged the corrosive anti-Chinese prejudices of the time and the young women who dared to flee their fate. She relates how the women who ran the home defied contemporary convention--even occasionally breaking the law--by physically rescuing children from the brothels where they worked or by snatching them off ships as they were being smuggled in--and how they helped bring the exploiters to justice. She also shares the moving stories of many of the girls and young women who sought refuge at the mission, and she writes about the lives they went on to lead.

This is a remarkable chapter in an overlooked part of our history, told with sympathy and vigor.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Siler vividly portrays both the vibrant, violent milieu of Chinatown of the era—amid the fear and hatred of the Chinese by whites and the effects of laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—and the lives and dedication of the extraordinary women of the Mission House." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Siler vividly recounts a shocking episode from America's past in this gripping history...This strong story will fascinate readers interested in the history of women, immigration, and racism." - Publishers Weekly

"The White Devil's Daughters tells an unforgettable story of exploitation, oppression, and resistance, showing how the enslavement of Chinese women was woven into the birth of Asian America in nineteenth-century San Francisco. Most important, Siler rescues the remarkable women who waged war on this criminal trade, inside and outside the law, even as they battled pervasive anti-Chinese bigotry. This book is not only rewarding, but necessary." - T.J. Stiles, author of Custer's Trials

"Sounding a warning gong in a world still plagued by human trafficking, The White Devil's Daughters is a timely book and a valuable lesson in caring for the suffering of fellow humans while looking for a real cure." - Yunte Huang, author of Inseparable

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Author Information

Julia Flynn Siler

Julia Flynn Siler is a New York Times best-selling author and journalist. Her most recent book is Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America's First Imperial Adventure. Her first book, The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty, was a finalist for a James Beard Award and a Gerald Loeb Award for distinguished reporting. A veteran journalist, Siler is a longtime contributor and former staff writer for the Wall Street Journal and has been a guest commentator on CNBC, CNN, and the BBC. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their two sons.

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