The End of the Chirish

White working class males saw these intermarriages as a threat. Not only were Chinese men taking their jobs but they were even taking their women as well. In regions where no such miscegenation legislation had been passed (such as NY at the time), the public tended to ridicule these marriages and call into question the motivation of both the men and women involved. A 1906 article in the Providence News-Democrat claimed opium to be one of the top reasons that white women choose to marry Chinese men.  "He spends money," the article stated, "he banquets her in the private rooms of chop suey restaurants, and-it is alleged-if then she does not agree to marry him, he does not surrender and mourn the loss, but he inveigles her into smoking opium-and having once tasted the charms of "the pipe," she is his." 

 

The American press also tended to assume that most white girls who married a Chinese man were forced to do so by poverty.  And indeed, many girls clearly were motivated at least partly by a desire for money. For example, the New York funeral director William H. Kennedy noted that the recently widowed Mrs. Ah Fung, whom he described as a “bright and intelligent” Irish young lady, was apparently unmoved by her husband Ah Fung’s violent death. She was “not in the least crushed by affliction, for having left a tidy sum to his widow, she [was] not left in poverty by the demise of her husband.” Kennedy perceived Mrs. Ah Fung as not having been upset but satisfied by her newly acquired financial state. Thus she could never have entered the marriage out of love but only for economic gain. 

 

This disapproval of such intermarriage inspired a number of popular songs. One example is “Hay Sing, Come from China,” which opens with a Chinese man’s desire for a permanent relationship with an Irish woman.

 

Me got an Irish girl, she well nice.  

 

Me make her some day my wife. 

 

We have a nice time, go back China 

 

Eat much plenty rats and mice. 

 

As with many similar songs, the song ends with Hay Sing's Irish girl being stolen by a "Melican" man (which is a racist way for artists to ridicule Chinese men and their pronunciation of “American” man).  Recounting the story of their life together in a house on Bottle Alley, and selling gin, Hay Sing is jailed for drinking and smoking opium, while his Irish girl finds the company of a white man.  

 

A second example is the song "The Marriage of John Chinaman," printed in Conn Irish Songbook in 1868. With a similar theme of an Irish woman, Cock-eyed Fan, growing close to a Chinese man and eventually abandoning him. The song alludes to the stereotype that Irish women were gold diggers by the lyrics saying the Chinaman had "saved a lot of gold and who seeks a wife.”

In addition to songs, another form of public entertainment that was used to promote anti-Chinese propaganda was through plays. One play-write in particular was Edwards Harrigan, along with his musical  partner Tony Hart. Harrigan and Hart wrote a series of plays that portrayed, what they claimed to be, everyday ethnic life in the Lower East Side. In many of their plays, Chinese men were portrayeds Hog-eyed heathens, often playing the antagonist of the Irish main protagonist.

In these examples the Irish were portrayed as the victims of the evil Chiense. With the public being around such propaganda in the press, songs, and plays that they are exposed to everyday, a public mindset had formed that the Chinese was a danger to society while the Irish were suffering just as much from the Chinese as other everyone else in NY (whites with status). Therefore, not only were the Chirish shunned but the Chinese in general. Thus, Irish women stopped marrying Chinese men and the Chinese isolated themselves downtown to form what is now