I love researching history! Since my story takes place in 1903 Portland, I am getting to know about people who lived here then, and how things were for them. One thing that was really different was that there were laws against some people living here. These were called Exclusion Laws.
But life usually finds a way, as in the case of Dr. C. Gee Wo, a real Chinese person I have learned about and put into my story. Dr. Wo was from China and was an herbal doctor, using teas and herbal medicines to help make people better. He studied for many years, in China and America, to be good at his profession. He moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where he had a popular practice for eleven years, from 1889 to 1900.
During that time, he married a white lady name C. DeWitt (I can’t find her first name anywhere, just her first initial. Maybe Caroline? Celestine? Charlotte?) In 1900, they moved to Portland, Oregon, and Dr. Wo opened his herbal medicine practice.
At that time, the Exclusion Laws said Chinese people couldn’t own property, so Chinese needed to rent apartments, mostly in the neighborhood on the west side of the river. But Dr. Wo’s wife was white, so she could buy property where they wanted. They bought a small house, and, when business was better, built a bigger house next door.
As the years went on, Dr. Wo became a respected member of not just the Chinese community, but of the city of Portland. He donated to victims of the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. He contributed to local causes and invested in businesses. He helped the city grow.
Dr. Wo retired about 1915, but stayed active in the community at least until 1921, when he made a large contribution to the local Community Chest fund. I haven’t found any information about him after that time, but I will keep looking. Being a history detective is exciting!