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Polly Bemis: The Life and Times of a Chinese American Pioneer

Polly Bemis: The Life and Times of a Chinese American Pioneer - Priscilla Wegars

Polly Bemis: The Life and Times of a Chinese American Pioneer


Polly Bemis, the mistakenly named "Lalu Nathoy" of books and film, was forcibly brought to the United States, and to Idaho Territory, in 1872 when she was just eighteen. In 1894 she married a Euroamerican man, Charlie Bemis, and they moved to a mining claim on the remote Salmon River; Charlie died in 1922 and Polly died in 1933. Since her death, Polly Bemis's life has been greatly romanticized. Supposedly, she was a prostitute, "Hong King" was her Chinese owner, and Charlie Bemis "won her in a poker game." Not one of these statements is true. Polly's life was genuinely fascinating, and it is time to both celebrate the known facts about her and allow the stereotypical, undocumented legends to die out.
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Polly Bemis, the mistakenly named "Lalu Nathoy" of books and film, was forcibly brought to the United States, and to Idaho Territory, in 1872 when she was just eighteen. In 1894 she married a Euroamerican man, Charlie Bemis, and they moved to a mining claim on the remote Salmon River; Charlie died in 1922 and Polly died in 1933. Since her death, Polly Bemis's life has been greatly romanticized. Supposedly, she was a prostitute, "Hong King" was her Chinese owner, and Charlie Bemis "won her in a poker game." Not one of these statements is true. Polly's life was genuinely fascinating, and it is time to both celebrate the known facts about her and allow the stereotypical, undocumented legends to die out.
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