Jeung Gwai Ying, Quan Gow Sheung, Wong So and Leung Louie Gin – Unsung Heroines in SF Chinatown in the 1930s

By Eddie Wong. Posted April 1, 2024.


Nearly 10 years ago, I stumbled on the story of four Chinese women in the 1920s and 1930s who were promised jobs in the U.S. only to be forced into prostitution. After years of research at newspaper archives and the National Archives, I found immigration records of the women and an account of the trial where the women testified and won convictions against their slave owners. In 2016, my story on the 1935 Broken Blossoms case was the cover story in Prologue, the quarterly magazine of the National Archives. (Note: You can read the full story at Broken Blossoms – A Struggle from Servitude to Freedom.)

Although Woman’s History Month in March has just passed, here’s an abridged version of the Broken Blossoms case. Although the names Jeung Gwai Ying,Quan Gow Sheung, Wong So, and Leung Louie Gin are largely unknown, they stand proudly as strong Chinese women determined to be free.

Jeung Gwai Ying’s false name ws Lee Lon Ying.

Jeung Gwai Ying’s Enslavement

On December 14, 1933, Jeung Gwai Ying, who was 19 years old, was taken to a beauty salon by her captor and told to get her hair permed and ready to be taken to the Sacramento Delta to service men at a party later that night. When the old woman who guarded her decided to go on an errand, Jeung Gwai Ying decided this would be her only chance to break free. She told the hair stylist to just perm the ends of hair and rushed out into the chilly late afternoon and walk to the Presbyterian Mission Home, located at 920 Sacramento Street. She had been a prostitute for one month and hated being forced to be a slave to her owners. A sympathetic customer told her that she would be safe at the Mission Home.

Jeung Gwai Ying’s family was very poor.  They lived in Heungshan in Guangdong Province where her father was a schoolteacher.  Three years before she came to the July 1933, Jeung Fat, her father died, and Lee Shee, her mother, moved Jeung Ying and her nine-year old sister and seven-year old brother to Hong Kong.

One day a family friend brought an old woman to visit Jeung Ying. The old woman worked for Wong See Duck, a wealthy San Francisco merchant who was also a tong member involved in the prostitution racket.  Wong See Duck periodically came to China to recruit women to come to America promising them jobs or marriage to Chinese merchants in America.

Jeung Ying described what ensued in her testimony to U.S. Immigration Service officials: A lady who speaks the See Yup dialect came to see my mother…There was no work in China, so I thought I would take a chance and come to get a position here.  They told me that I didn’t have to become a prostitute if I didn’t want to, that I could get a job…. My mother didn’t want me to come, but our family is very poor, and I thought if I could get work in America, it would help my family.

The old lady gave Jeung Ying’s mother $400 in Hong Kong dollars, which was approximately $115 US. A few days later, Jeung Ying went to the Ah Jow Hotel near the waterfront to study coaching papers as she was to immigrate as Lee Lon Ying, the daughter of Lee Wing, a native-born Chinese who lived in Seattle. She studied for three hours a day for three days to learn the names of her false brothers and sisters and the details of life in Wing Soon Village in the Sun Ning District of Guangdong, a place she had never visited.  Accompanying her on the voyage was Wong Quong Hing, a friend of Wong See Duck.

After she arrived in Seattle, she met Leung Louie Gin, her false sister, and they both passed the interrogation session by authorities at the Seattle Immigration Station. Along with Wong Quong Hing, the women took the train to Oakland, CA and were met by Wong See Duck who promptly confiscated their Certificates of Identity.

Jeung Ying was taken to apartment nine on the third floor of 900 Powell St. in San Francisco. Leung Louie Gin returned to the home of Wong See Duck and Kung Shee, where she did the family’s washing and cleaning while Wong See Duck sought a buyer for her.

Held Prisoner in San Francisco

Jeung Ying lived in the apartment for several months as Wong See Duck negotiated her sale.  Wong See Duck’s wife, Kung Shee, with her children in tow, visited her daily. They brought food to Jeung Ying and occasionally accompanied her on walks. Jeung Ying was ordered to stay in the apartment. One can only imagine her feelings of isolation and despair as she couldn’t speak English and did not know a single person in San Francisco other than her captors.

Jeung Ying was put up for auction, but there were no buyers until Jew Gwai Ha and Yee Mar, two former prostitutes who became slavers, paid $4,500 (nearly $105,000 today) and took her to 826 Jackson St., Apt. 205. That night she was sent to entertain eight men at an apartment on Powell Street. She was paid $25 by Seattle merchant Chan Cheung for spending the night with him.

 “I went to whatever hotel that my two owners sent me for the night.  I practiced prostitution two times at the Tai Sing Hotel (706 Jackson St. at Grant Ave.) on two different nights; and over ten times at the Grand View Hotel (605 Pine St. at Grant Ave.),” Jeung Ying testified. “I was also taken to men’s rooms on Powell Street on three different occasions… Some paid me $25 and some $30 for the night, but I had to turn in $21 as that was required by my owners for the night.”

Boarded up hotel at 710 Grant Ave.

Quan Gow Sheung’s story bolsters Jeung Ying’s accusations

Jeung Ying was not the only young woman at the Presbyterian Mission Home who had escaped from her slave owners.  Although Quan Sheung did not know Jeung Ying, they had something in common – both women had been owned by Jew Gwai Ha and Yee Mar.

Quan Gow Sheung was 17 years old when she arrived in Seattle on November 7, 1927 on the S.S. President Jackson. and was admitted to the U.S. as a student named Fong Dai Muey. When she was four years old, her mother sent her to live with relatives in Macau. The family was too poor to support her. Like Jeung Ying, she met her false father and was taken to San Francisco where she became the property of her enslavers who lived on Commercial St at Kearny Street. She worked there a year as a prostitute and was sent to Sacramento to work in a brothel. Quan Gow was sold to another slaver and worked in San Francisco before escaping with a fellow prostitute, Yoke Lan. When she arrived at the Mission Home, she was 19 years old.

Despite Quan Gow Sheung and Jeung Ying’s sworn statements, Assistant U.S. Attorneys A.J. Zirpoli and Arthur Phelan proceeded cautiously and spent a year amassing more evidence. The INS files show that Wong See Duck, Kung Shee, Jew Gwai Ha and Yee Mar had been suspected of criminal activities for many years.

The Slavers

Wong See Duck was a prosperous merchant who owned a hardware store on Grant Ave.  As a merchant, he was allowed him to travel back and forth to China and his wealth allowed him to finance the purchase of false identities and import women for sale into prostitution.

Wong See Duck was born on October 4, 1889 in Lung On village,Toishan district, Guangdong China.  He came to the United States in 1908 when he was 19 years old under the false name of Leong Chong Po, a son of a merchant. He worked for several Chinatown companies.  When he became a partner in the Choy Jee Tong & Company at 804 Grant Ave, he joined the Suey Sing Tong, a business association in which some members engaged in criminal activities. He returned to China in October 1913, married and had a child.

Wong See Duck, merchant and slave owner.

In October 1932, Wong See Duck went to China and recruited three women to come to the U.S. on the pretense that they would become married to Chinese merchants.

Yee Mar arrived in San Francisco on September 25, 1909. She was 23 years old and entered as Louie Shee, the wife of a native-born Chinese, Low Git, who was 31 years old and worked at the Denver Bar on Fillmore Street.  The couple moved to Watsonville, California where Low Git worked as a cook in a Chinese restaurant.  It was not a happy marriage.  When Low Git applied to visit China in December 1914, he told INS officials that his wife had run away to San Francisco and become a prostitute.

When Yee Mar applied to go to China in October 1930, immigration officials interviewed Sergeant John J. Manion, head of the SF Police Department’s Chinatown Squad, who recognized the picture of Yee Mar and identified her as the wife of Yee Mee, a member of the Hop Sing Tong and Bing Kong Tong.  He had operated the Siberia Gambling Club, an establishment that was known to have prostitutes on the premises.  He had been arrested several times on gambling charges, and police shut down the club in 1916.

Although Yee Mar claimed to be a seamstress, her neighbor Mar Lock Gee told immigration officials that he had never seen her operate the sewing machine in her apartment in the ten years that he had known her at the Commercial Street apartment building.  Yee Mar also told immigration officials that she had $1,000 in the bank and $1,000 in travel funds.  Seamstresses in Chinatown were making less than $10 a week in 1930.  Even if she sewed night and day, Yee Mar could not have amassed $2,000 from being a seamstress.

Yee Mar’s files also included testimony given in 1930 by two former slave girls Sheet Bing and Hing Foon who confirmed that Yee Mar had been a prostitute and a slave owner.  Both women were deported to China and feared retribution from the San Francisco tongs even in China. They only agreed to testify if their statements were sealed from public disclosure. Thus, no charges were filed against Yee Mar.

The file on Jew Gwai Ha, who was admitted to the U.S. on October 1, 1923 under the name Fong Shee, does not contain much background information. She was granted admission to the U.S. as the wife of Hom Ngee, a native-born Chinese, who worked on a flower farm in Belmont, California. At some point, she left him and moved to San Francisco where she gave birth of a daughter, Ruby Tom, in December 1926.

On March 19, 1934, SF Police Inspector Manion went to Jew Gwai Ha’s apartment accompanied representatives of the Presbyterian Mission Home and Quan Gow Sheung, who sought to reclaim her personal possessions.  Police also confiscated photos of Jew Gwai Ha in the company of other slave owners.

Yee Mar and Jew Gwai Ha with fellow slave owners.

In December 1934, arrest warrants for Wong See Duck, Kung Shee, Jew Gwai Ha, and Yee Mar were issued.  They were rounded up in January and February1935 and held briefly on charges of “illegal importation for immoral purposes and receiving and benefiting from prostitution.” After pleading not guilty at arraignment hearings in early February, they were released on bail, which was set at $2,000 and $2,500.

A Web of Lies

On March 5, 1935, the trial began in federal court at the San Francisco Post Office Building in the chambers of Judge Albert Morris Sames. Unfortunately, trial records were destroyed in 1945.  However, through the INS pre-trial interviews with the accused, we have a reasonable idea of the facts that the prosecution presented in court, particularly the contradictory statements made by the accused.

Immigration officials questioned Wong See Duck and his wife Kung Shee on December 17, 1934.  When confronted with Jeung Ying’s statements, regarding her sale into slavery, Wong See Duck acknowledged that he had met her but said he did not know her well.  He denied any guilt in the matter.

Kung Shee, Wong See Duck’s wife, was questioned on the same day.  She started with a straightforward denial of knowing Jeung Ying or having provided her food and giving her money. However, when pressed by INS officials, Kung Shee made several damming statements, acknowledging that she was present when money was exchanged at Jeung Ying’s sale at 826 Jackson Street.

Kung Shee was illiterate and signed her statement with an X.

Questioned by INS Inspector August Kuckein on January 28, 1935, Jew Gwai Ha said she was introduced to Jeung Ying by Yee Mar, her neighbor at the apartment building on 826 Jackson Street.

Jew Gwai Ha’s false name was Fong Shee.

On the critical issue of the money exchange that occurred as Jeung Ying was sold into slavery, Jew Gwai Ha verified that all the parties were together at the apartment. This was a crucial point because Yee Mar in her statement to INS officials denied even knowing Jew Gwai Ha let alone being a party to a sale.

 Yee Mar was arrested at her apartment on February 13, 1935

Yee Mar also declared that she had never lived on Commercial Street.  She even denied knowing Quan Gow Sheung, who testified that she lived with Yee Mar on Commercial Street.  Perhaps Yee Mar had forgotten that immigration inspectors had questioned her at her Commercial Street apartment in 1930.

Prosecutors had ample ammunition to expose the slave owners, but the trial did not prove to be an easy one.

A Difficult Trial

A brief article in a San Francisco newspaper described Jeung Ying’s testimony: “The star witness was Jung Gwai Ying, purported slave girl, who, it was charged, was smuggled into this country from Hong Kong and sold for $4,500. She testified she had been sold by her mother, taken to Seattle as the daughter of an American-born Chinese and turned over to Wong Duck and his wife to be marketed to the highest bidder.”

Defense attorneys for the accused subjected Jeung Ying to intense cross-examination.  On March 14, the attorneys seized upon a misstatement by Jeung Ying about being sold in Hong Kong to Wong See Duck to say that all her testimony had been perjured.  Mildred Crowl Martin, author of Chinatown’s Angry Angel: The Story of Donaldina Cameron, writes, “Kwai Ying hesitated, tried to answer, floundered under the cruel rain of words, and fell silent, covering her face with trembling hands.”

Ten jury members cast guilty votes, but two jurors were not convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that the accused were guilty.  The judge declared a hung jury; the accused were released.  However, the slave owners were not completely exonerated.

Wong So Paves the Way for a Second Trial

Jeung Ying had spoken to INS officials about another young woman who was at Wong See Duck’s Powell Street apartment and who had been sold into slavery. Her name was Wong So, but she could not be located during the yearlong investigation before the first trial.  Three days after the trial ended, she was arrested in Salinas, California at the Republic Hotel and brought to the Presbyterian Mission Home in San Francisco.  In a series of interrogations by the INS from March 16 to 20, 1935, Wong So revealed how she was sold into prostitution.

Wong So was an only child.  Born in Ching Jow village in the Heungshan district of Guangdong Province China, she moved to Macao with her father, who owned a small grocery store. He died when she was 13 years old and she went to live with a distant cousin in Macao and worked at a firecracker factory.  One day Wong Gwong Tin also known as Wong Quong Hing, a friend of Wong See Duck visited Wong So in July 1933 and convinced her to come to the U.S. to marry a merchant

In order for Wong So to immigrate to the U.S., she would need to assume the identity of Lee Choy Ying and was given a 100-page coaching book and learned about Lee Ying’s birth village and her six false brothers and two sisters. She boarded a steam ship and arrived in Seattle on May 28, 1933 where she was met by Wong See Duck and brought to San Francisco. She moved into Wong See Duck’s house at 750 Washington Street and held prisoner until a buyer could be found for her. She was threatened by Wong See Duck who brandished a revolver, threatening to kill her if she resisted being sold. Ho Sek Mo (the wife of Ho Siu Hon, President of Bing Kung Tong), a slave owner bought her on July 1, 1933 for $5,400. Wong So told immigration officials that she “practiced prostitution in the Republic Hotel (located at 710 Grant Ave.), but sometimes I stayed in other hotels… Grand View, Chung Hing, and Tai Shing Hotels.”

 After a month in San Francisco, Wong So was sent Walnut Grove, California, a small town in the Sacramento River Delta.  She stayed with Ho Sek Mo and Yuet Lin, a prostitute, on 2nd Street. Then she was sent back and forth from San Francisco to Delta towns such as Isleton, Walnut Grove, Locke and Stockton and to Salinas, California in the Central Valley.  In the 1930s, Chinese, Filipinos, and Japanese were the main laborers in these rural towns. Prostitution and gambling thrived in the Delta towns.

Wong So’s testimony bolstered Jeung Ying’s story.  When shown photographs of Jew Gwai Ha, and Yee Mar, Wong So identified them as “gwai po,” owners of prostitutes.

Wong So also told immigration officials that she had visited the Suey Sing Tong headquarters in San Francisco with Wong See Duck. There, she met Tom Gom Soon, a gambler, who offered to buy Wong So’s freedom and paid Wong See Duck $5,200.  Their son, Albert Tom, was born on January 1, 1935 in Salinas, California and lived with his grandmother in Oakland.

Armed with Wong So’s testimony, U.S. prosecutors scheduled a new trial before Judge Walter C. Lindley on April 31, 1935.

The Second Broken Blossoms Trial

Assistant U.S. Attorneys A.J. Zirpoli and Arthur Phelan lay the foundation for the second trial of Wong See Duck, Kung Shee, Jew Gwai Ha, and Yee Mar with a press conference on April 18, 1935.  The accusation that 50 slave girls had been smuggled into the U.S. each year by this criminal ring was splashed on the front page of the San Francisco Examiner with a banner headline “S.F. Slave Girl Names Higher Ups – $5,000 Paid for Victims of Vice Syndicate.”  The federal prosecutors told of a new key witness, Wong So, who would testify that she was sold for $5,000.  Jeung Ying, who had testified at the first trial, would also take the stand.

Articles in San Francisco newspapers and an account from Mildred Crowl Martin’s book Chinatown’s Angry Angel: The Story of Donaldina Cameron provide some details about the second trial.

Mildred Crowl Martin described Wong So as confident and determined as she spoke from the witness stand.

Wong So took her chair, brushing her short hair behind one ear. She made her statements with vigor, and she stood up under fire.  Moreover, she bore herself with a dignity that was unshakeable.

 On May 3, 1935, the jury considered the evidence and after meeting for one hour voted unanimously to convict Wong See Duck, Kung Shee, Jew Gwai Ha, and Yee Mar.  One newspaper reported the following scene:

            Oriental stoicism was suddenly replaced by hysterical sobbing in Federal    court yesterday when four Chinese, three of them women, were found   guilty of Chinese slavery charges.  The three women… were near collapse when an interpreter informed them each must serve a year and a day in a        Federal penitentiary… Wong See Duck…was sentenced to two years in       jail and fined $5,000.  All face deportation upon their release.

Wong See Duck, prisoner # 11511, at McNeil Island.

 The three women were sent to the Federal Industrial Institution for Women in Alderson, West Virginia.  Wong See Duck went to McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary in Washington, but he would only be in jail for one year.

The Return of Leung Louie Gin, the Eldest Sister

After the slave owners were sent to prison, New York City police found Leung Louie Gin, the “sister” of Jeung Ying and Wong So. On June 13, 1935, she was arrested for giving false testimony at the immigration hearings of Jeung Ying and Wong So.  Brought to the Presbyterian Mission Home in San Francisco, Leung Gin recounted her imprisonment by Wong See Duck.

Leung Gin worked in Hong Kong at a shoe factory gluing soles, and Wong See Duck offered to bring her to San Francisco to marry a Chinese merchant. But upon arrival in San Francisco, she moved to an apartment that she shared briefly with Wong So.  Wong See Duck arranged for men to visit her for prostitution and stayed to collect the money. He threatened her often.

 After a month of receiving men in her apartment, Wong See Duck told her go to New York with an old woman called Ah Mo.  When asked why she had to be moved, Wong See Duck replied, “there was some matter that caused a disturbance.” He was mostly likely referring to the news reports that Jeung Ying had escaped to the Presbyterian Mission Home.

Leung Gin continued to work as a prostitute under Ah Mo’s watchful eye.  The money she earned was sent to Wong See Duck.  Then something unexpected happened. While shopping at a Chinatown grocery store, she met Wong Hong Duck, a truck driver.  They fell in love, and she moved in with him at 40 Bayard Street. Ah Mo stayed briefly with them but soon left town. Wong Hong Duck sent Wong See Duck a down payment on the $5,300 needed to buy Leung Gin’s freedom.

Shortly after Leong Gin was arrested in June 1935, Wong Hong Duck was brought in for questioning at the Ellis Island Immigration Station.  During his interrogation, he admitted that he had a wife and sons in China. Nonetheless, Leong Gin considered herself to be his true wife, and he felt similarly towards her. In fact, she had become pregnant with his child and was approaching her due date when she was arrested.  Her arraignment was delayed until July 1935.

She gave birth to a girl on September 21, 1935 at the Mission Home and named her Alice Mae Lum Wong.

Leong Gin’s story added compelling details to the well-documented crimes of Wong See Duck.  Since she had been forced to provide false testimony at the immigration hearings of Wong So and Jeung Ying, the prosecutors decided to absolve Leong Gin of any crimes.  All charges were dropped against her on May 29, 1936. She was deported to China with baby Alice on June 12, 1936.  Her husband Wong Hong Duck had left previously for China in spring 1936.

No End to Lies at the Deportation Hearings for Wong See Duck et al

On May 3, 1936, Wong See Duck was released from prison on bond but was held the Angel Island Immigration Station prior to his deportation.  Kung Shee had been released earlier that year and returned to live with her children in San Francisco Chinatown.

Despite the fact that a jury did not believe them in 1935, Kung Shee and Wong See Duck clung to their lies and sought to delay the deportation process. He used his wealth and political connections in a last-ditch effort.  Wong See Duck obtained the legal services of Colonel William H. Neblett, a law partner of U.S. Senator William Gibbs McAdoo, a former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under President Wilson. Neblett and attorney George E. Acret appealed to Judge Walter C. Lindley to stay the deportation order on the grounds that Wong See Duck had six children and spent most of his life in the U.S.  Judge Lindley refused the appeal on the grounds that “the offense is of a heinous character. (and) is destructive of all the decent traditions of this Government.”

On October 15, 1936 Wong See Duck and Kung Shee, accompanied by their American-born children, William, 12 years old, Diana, 11 years old, and Simon, 8 years old, boarded the President Lincoln and were deported to China.  Kung Shee was given $12 to help cover the cost of transporting the family to Wing Ow Village, Sun Ning District after their arrival in Hong Kong.

After being released from prison in February 1936, Yee Mar returned to San Francisco and appealed her deportation.  Her appeal was denied, and she was deported to China on September 16, 1936 on the S.S. President Coolidge.

Jew Gwai Ha was released from prison on February 20, 1936 after posting a $3,000 bond and returned to San Francisco to appeal her deportation order.

Her attorney appealed for a delay so that her American-born daughter, Ruby Tom, age 9, could finish out her school term.  During the time Jew Gwai Ha was in prison, her daughter Ruby had been living with her uncle Fong Ah Noun at 1050 Grant Ave.  It is not clear whether Ruby accompanied her mother on April 13, 1938 when Jew Gwai Ha was deported to China on the S.S. President Coolidge.

Facing Deportation:  Wong So, Gow Sheung Quan and Jeung Gwai

Wong So, Gow Sheung Quan and Jeung Gwai Ying continued to live at the Presbyterian Mission Home after the trial and deportation hearings concluded against the slave owners.  All three were subject to deportation as they had entered the U.S. under false identities, but only Wong So was forced to leave on September 26, 1936 on the S.S. President Coolidge. Ms. Cameron made arrangements for Wong So to enter a Mission School in Shanghai, China. Albert Tom, her son, remained in Oakland, CA with his grandmother.

Gow Sheung Quan converted to Christianity while living at the Mission Home. Consistent with the practice of the Mission Home, the staff found her a suitable Christian mate for her.  In 1937, she married Stephen Yee.

Jeung Ying’s story was more complicated.  During the deportation hearing for Yee Mar on November 29, 1935, INS Inspector Patrick J. Farrelly questioned Jeung Ying about the birth of her boy, David, who was born May 18, 1934.  She refused to name the father, although it was widely speculated that Wong Gwong Hing, the man who accompanied her to the U.S. and who stayed with her in an apartment in San Francisco was the father.

The Return of Wong Quong Hing and his reunion with Jeung Ying

According to Wong Quong Hing, Jeung Ying stopped first at the Jung Hing Hotel on December 14, 1933 to tell him that she planned to escape to the Mission Home that night. A few days later news articles appeared in the Chinese press about Jeung Ying’s escape. Wong Quong Hing knew that he would be arrested for his role in the false immigration of three women.  He boarded a ship in Seattle bound for China on December 23, 1933.  The U.S. Federal Court indicted him on February 2, 1935, but officials could not locate him.

On January 11, 1941, Wong Quong Hing returned to the U.S. on the Princess Margaret, which docked in Seattle. He contacted Jeung Ying at the Mission Home.  Shortly after his return to the U.S., his first wife died in China in February 1941.  Ms. Cameron arranged for Wong Quong HIng and Jeung Ying to be married in Santa Cruz, California on May 22, 1941.

He turned himself and was questioned in October 1941 to determine his right to stay in the U.S. Wong Quong Hing said that he did not know that Wong See Duck intended to bring women into the U.S. for prostitution. Wong See Duck had paid for the hospitalization and care of Wong Quong Hing’s father, who was a business partner of Wong See Duck. Thus, Wong Quong Hing felt indebted to Wong See Duck and heeded his instructions.

San Francisco Chinatown in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

He described his predicament when he learned that Jeung Ying was to become a prostitute.

Q:  Was Jeung Gwai Ying actually brought to this country for the purpose of being sold as a prostitute?

A:  At the time I accompanied her to this country, I did not know that she was to be placed as a prostitute, but after arriving here this thing was revealed to me, and I then felt very bad about it but I told her that I couldn’t help her under the circumstances; that the people sponsoring her to come to the United States were tong men, and that my life would be in danger if I should place any obstacles in the way of her being what Wong See Duck wanted her to be.

Wong Quong Hing pled guilty to the charges of fraudulent immigration for the purpose of prostitution and was placed on five year’s probation on November 22, 1941.  Working in his favor was the fact that he derived no financial gain for any of his activities on behalf of Wong See Duck.

Jeung Ying adopted the name of Lois Qui Wong. She and her husband, now known as Henry Quong Wong, lived in San Francisco with their son David.  On February 7, 1942, Lois gave birth to Donna Li Wong and spent the rest of her life as a homemaker.

After battling liver cancer, Lois Qui Wong passed away on May 14, 1999 at her son’s apartment in San Francisco. Henry Q. Wong passed away in San Francisco on May 6, 2008.

Their son David Y. Wong lived in San Francisco all his life working as a U.S. Postal Service Clerk.  He never married.  His sister Donna informed authorities that David had a heart attack and passed away on December 31, 2012.

Lois Qui Wong, Henry Wong and David Y. Wong are buried at Hoy Sun Memorial Park in Colma, CA.

Wong burial plot at Colma Cemetery.


The convictions of slave owners in the Broken Blossoms trial were hailed as a victory in the fight against powerful criminals in San Francisco Chinatown.

Chinatown was also changing in the late 1930s.  The Depression had slowed immigration from China. After the Sino-Japanese war broke out in 1937, travel    from China to the U.S. diminished considerably.

The Broken Blossoms trials revealed the persistent exploitation of Chinese women that runs through Chinese American history.  Criminal syndicates were quick to exploit the situation as U.S. laws forbade the importation of wives of Chinese laborers.  The market that was set up to provide sexual services for Chinese men, both laborers and merchants, was founded on coercion. This ugly side of Chinese American history is not often acknowledged.

Although the Broken Blossoms case is largely unknown to the public, Jeung Gwai Ying, Quan Gow Sheung, Wong So, and Leung Louie Gin should be remembered and hailed for their courage and tenacity. Equally important in the successful prosecution of the Broken Blossoms case was advocacy by the Presbyterian Mission Home, now known as Cameron House.  For decades, the staff led by Donaldina Cameron had protected slave girls and other exploited children from the criminal gangs. They not only provided refuge, but they also persuaded police, the courts and immigration officials to pursue the gangsters who ran the prostitution rackets.  To the fullest extent possible, the Mission Home staff counseled the women to seek justice in the courts.  The Broken Blossoms case was a significant victory, but the war against exploitation of women continues today.


I wish to thank Charles L. Miller and Bill Greene at NARA San Francisco and Brita Merkel at NARA Seattle or their help in locating the immigration records of all parties in the Broken Blossoms case.  The majority of the information can be found in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California Criminal cases files: #25293, 25294, 25295 US v Wong See Duck Loc B/12/2/5/5.

Doreen Der-Mcleod, former Director of Cameron House, provided invaluable assistance in locating files and photos of Wong So, Quan Sheung Gow and Leong Lin Gin.

Leah Chen Price, an attorney at the Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, provided insights on contemporary human trafficking and its impact on Asian Pacific American communities.

Tami Suzuki at the San Francisco History Center at the San Francisco Public Library guided me through their historical photographic collection.  Tim Wilson at the San Francisco Public Library also helped me find several of the locations mentioned in the article.

I am deeply grateful to the late Judy Yung, whose editorial advice was invaluable.

Addendum: Video of Present-Day Chinatown with Locations in the Broken Blossoms story.