There is a salient absence of women in the early history of South Asian Americans.  But a handful of women from Punjab did join their husbands in the western United States before the Second World War.  Between 1916 and 1940, a unique Punjabi/Mexican American community formed in the western US involving mixed families of Punjabi men who had married women from Mexico.  These women, and their daughters, formed the majority of women in the hybrid Punjabi/Mexican American community.  This gallery narrates the extraordinary lives of the first Punjabi women in California’s Sacramento Valley, as well as the Punjabi/Mexican American women who played a critical role in shaping the community’s history.

Select a photo to learn about each woman’s life.

Kartar Kaur Dhillon

Nand Kaur

Raj Kor Poonian

Mary Rai

Isabel Singh Garcia

Sources: Joan M. Jensen, Passage From India: Asian Indian Immigrants in North America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988); Bruce LaBrack, Sikhs of Northern California, 1904-1975 (New York: AMS Press, 1988); Karen Isaksen Leonard, Making Ethnic Choices: California’s Punjabi Mexican Americans (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992); and, Karen Isaksen Leonard, The South Asian Americans (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997).