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Mexican American People and Chinese American People During World War 2

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Changlin Yang (1521383)


History-10B (Summer session I)

Instructor: Prof. Bristol Cave-LaCoste

Response paper 2

During the periods of the World War II and the Great Depression, not only the whites were affected, but also the Mexican American people and Chinese American people were suffered from those days. But because they were marked as minorities, they were discriminatively treated and more likely to be overlooked. In these groups, women, no matter single women, married women or the second-generation women, impeded by historical and traditional issues, had to face more challenges and overcame the pressures came from the internal families and external societies. In this paper, after reading the Elizabeth R. Escobedo’s From Coveralls to Zoot Suits: The Lives of Mexican American Women on the World War II Home Front and Unbound feet from Judy Yung, I aimed to compare the Mexican American in the World War II period and the Chinese American women in the Great Depression period, their economic mobility and analyzed the potential reasons.

Towards the Mexican American women and the Chinese American women, the influences of the World War II and the Great Depression were complicated. As for Mexican American women, used the sentence in From Coveralls to Zoot Suits, World War II represented a simultaneously liberating and limiting experience for them(Elizabeth R. Escobedo, P3). What could not be denied was that during the wartime, more jobs positions created. In order to support the front lines war zone, more and more weapons need to be manufactured. But at the beginning of the war time, it was hard for Mexican American women to obtain a job. However, because of lacking of workers it provided Mexican American women opportunities to leave their home and entry the factories, making money and supporting families, even though racism still influenced the employments. With the World War II went on, the Mexican American women were gradually considered as “white”. It was slow but eventually, they had the similar right to be hired without discriminated their skin color first and “worked in a vast variety positions”(Elizabeth R. Escobedo, P81). With the self-income and male unemployment rate was still high, their family status increased and had more chances and desires to connect society which was out of the family.

Compare with the Mexican American women, the Chinese American women seemed a little bit lucky. During the Great Depression, began in 1929, according to the Unbound feet: “Compared to their men and the rest of the country, Chinese women in San Francisco were relatively unaffected by unemployment”( Judy Yung, P188). Although some factors like the exclusion Chinese Act (1882), the sex-segregation and family reasons-- male were not willing their wives to go out and find a job, impeded Chinese American women to obtain a job, blocked their front way to become more independence, but they breakthrough the limitations. Why I said they were more lucky? Because the Chinese American people were concentrated in ethnic enterprises instead of in large-scale industrial occupations, they were less affected by these citywide contractions than other groups and they gained more help from the government assistance than the average American.

From my perspective, both of the two minorities tended to experience upward economic mobility during their periods. Although, at the beginning, like other minorities, such as the black people, they lived almost at the bottom of the society, full of discrimination in the lives and struggled to survive, they got helps from each other and gained many assistance from the government which the blacks rarely received. This process had positive meaning, despite no matter the World War II or the Great Depression made a lot of trouble. On the one hand, women made their own efforts contribute to their countries. As for Mexican American women, they worked in the factories, manufactured weapons to support the anti-fascist war. As for Chinese American women, they made money or produced necessities, sent to China to support the anti-Japan invasion war. On the other hand, women benefited from these periods because women earned money and became the mainly income source. They were more independent than before and no more the appendix of male. They realized that they needed to fight for their rights so that be treated more fairly. One of the example to prove that is the sentences in the Unbound feet: “For·the first time in their lives, Chinese American women-both foreign-and American-born-banded together, supported by the ILGWU and Chinese leftist organizations, to challenge unfair labor practices in the Chinatown garment industry” ( Judy Yung, P202). Besides that, the following social changes came with after the economic changing was women’s unbound feet. Before the tremendous change, because of their bound feet and the restrictive views of respectable behavior, they seldom left their homes, relying on their maids, whose feet were not bound, to relate to the world outside. It was because of those great changes that provided valuable opportunities for women to get rid of the chains from the past and got freedom in both physically and mentally.

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