Would You Marry a Chinaman?

by Hazel Houlihingle (Gloria Kaufman), from pg. 152 of In Stitches

Some things never change: would you marry a Jew? a Black? a Mexican? a Chinaman?

Anna Dickinson was one of the greatest nineteenth-century orators in the United States. When she visited San Francisco in 1869, she was horrified to learn that four Chinese "coolies" with brutally bruised bodies (part of a cargo of a thousand) had arrived dead at the port city. Instead of delivering her prepared speech, she began by lecturing the predominantly male audience on the disgraceful treatment of the Chinese in California. Most of the audience were hearing a woman speak in public for the first time. They hissed her lustily.

"My friends," she said, "you are not used to me. Never before have I had the pleasure of facing you, and you, apparently, never before had the profit of listening to an unpleasant truth. I will then tell you, so as to save time and trouble, that as I have endured a great deal of hissing, some stick-and-stone throwing, diverse odorous eggings, and finally one or two revolver bullets through political campaigns in the East, I am not to be scared by a trifle of goose breath in the West."

Spunky Anna then invited them to do all their hissing at once and let her get on with her talk. She said that California should train the Chinese in citizenship and abandon their racial prejudice.

"Would you marry a Chinaman?" a man loudly shouted.

Anna addressed the man directly: "If you were poor and oppressed, wouldn't you like to hear me, or someone else, defend you?"

"Yes," he said.

"And I would defend you," Anna continued, "but oppress you by marrying you? Never! Not if you got down on your knees to me would I marry you!"

In Stitches, 1991
Would You Marry a Chinaman?