Another of my grandmother's famous cousins was DONALDINA CAMERON who was born in New Zealand. (Family had originally gone there as missionaries from Scotland). At the age of two she emigrated to California with her parents, older brother, and four older sisters. In 1874, when Donaldina was five, her mother died. The family's ranch eventually failed and Donaldina's father supported his family by working for other ranchers. At nineteen, Donaldina was engaged, but for reasons unknown, did not marry. In 1895, she was persuaded by an old family friend to spend a year helping out at the Presbyterian Mission House in San Francisco's Chinatown. The acceptance of this offer was the turning point in Donaldina's life.
In 1895, she started working as a sewing teacher at the Occidental Mission Home for Girls, founded in 1874 by the Presbyterian Church. While working at the mission, she began to help the police in the rescue of women and girls held captive. With the death in 1897 of her mentor Margaret Culbertson, the mission's superintendent, Donaldina's responsibilities increased. In 1900, she became Superintendent of the Mission Home. She became known as "Lo Mo" or Beloved Mother to those she rescued, and "Fahn Quai", or White Devil, to those they were rescued from. She was also called the "Angel of Chinatown". ( I remember my grandmother saying the "White Angel").
|Lo Mo with children|
Donaldina continued to fight for the freedom of Chinese girls and women in the courts, at the podium, and to perform rescues in towns across the country until her retirement in 1934. While she was by no means a lone force, Donaldina Cameron is credited with breaking the back of the Chinese slave trade in the U.S., and the rescue and education of nearly 3,000 girls.
After she retired, Donaldina Cameron moved to Palo Alto to be near family members. She died at age 98, on January 4, 1968. She is interred in Evergreen Cemetery, Los Angeles. I remember my grandmother telling me stories of her, but in my early youth one did not let children in on the harsh realities of life. One of my cousins remembers meeting her.
Mildred Crowl Martin: Chinatown's Angry Angel, The Story of Donaldina Cameron,
(Palo Alto, California, Pacific Books, 1977)
Carol Green Wilson: Chinatown Quest, (Stanford, 1931&1950)
Fierce Compassion: A Biography
of Abolitionist Donaldina Cameron
Kristin and Kathryn Wong 2012