The Paper Daughters of Chinatown
By Heather B. Moore
When Heidi Taylor and Lisa Mangum sent me this story idea in fall of 2018, I had no idea the breathtaking journey I’d undertake through researching the life of Donaldina Cameron. I’d never heard specifically about Miss Cameron or her work, in conjunction with diligent staff members of the Occidental Mission Home for Girls, of thwarting the slave trade of Chinatown. Yet each day, in fact, every hour, I was drawn deeper into the remarkable life of a woman who personified a life of sacrifice and bringing hope to the downtrodden women and girls of San Francisco.
With several non-fiction, and even a couple of historical novels, published on Donaldina’s life, I debated what I could add, if anything, to a woman who truly deserves a multi-volume treatment. I finally settled on an approximate thirteen year period, starting with the day she arrived at the Mission Home. With the encouragement of my publisher, Shadow Mountain, and my agent Ann Leslie Tuttle, I cracked open the reference books, spending weeks reading and taking notes. The notes section grew to over eighty pages, and I knew I could spend months, even years, reading everything recorded on Donaldina.
But I had a deadline, and I needed to focus on my goal of bringing a part of Miss Cameron’s life to the forefront so that readers could find inspiration and hope in her story, just as I had. Writing historical fiction has been a joy of mine for many years, but writing The Paper Daughters of Chinatown took me into the dregs of the underworld of the dark beast of human trafficking. A twisted and corrupt practice that is hard to comprehend, yet women like Donaldina Cameron, did not close their eyes or turn their backs. They put their trust in the Lord, walked right into the fray, literally risking their lives time and time again, and changed lives forever.
It did not matter how much I read, or how much I uncovered, my heart was broken over and over at the stories and experiences. But time and time again, Miss Cameron triumphed when her rescued girls triumphed, building a new life and shedding the old. By the time Donaldina Cameron retired, it was estimated she’d aided in rescuing over 3,000 girls and women from human trafficking.
In the Gospel of Matthew, the Savior delivers the Sermon on the Mount. He outlines the beatitudes, or attributes, that are principles on the path to exaltation. As I read through them around the same time I was researching Donaldina’s life, I realized she had achieved each and every single one. She was poor in spirit, she mourned, she was meek, she did hunger and thirst after righteousness, she was merciful, she was pure in heart, she was a peacemaker, she was persecuted for righteousness’ sake, she was reviled against, and all manner of evil was spoken against her. She became a light unto the world, and her good works glorified the Father.
It is my humble wish, that my dear readers will come to know the remarkable woman who Donaldina Cameron became, as well as bring new understanding to the plights that women such as Tien Fuh Wu underwent in order to bring freedom from oppression and slavery to those caught in the web of human trafficking.
The Occidental Mission Home for Girls is still in operation today, renamed the Cameron House, in honor of Donaldina Cameron. The Cameron House serves as a community center and provides various community programs and services. “As part of Donaldina’s heritage, we are proud to offer services like: counseling; domestic violence intervention; food distribution; adult ESL and computer classes; support groups; youth afterschool and summer programs; sports, arts, and camping experiences; leadership development; and volunteer opportunities. Today we serve over 1,000 low-income immigrant children and families.” https://cameronhouse.org/
Visit my Pinterest Board for photos from my visit to the Cameron House in San Francisco: