Foot binding (纏足; chánzú; literally "bound feet" or "Lotus feet" (縛腳) was the custom of applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls to prevent further growth. The practice possibly originated among upperclass court dancers in the early Song dynasty, but spread and eventually became common among all but the lowest of classes.
A large proportion of Chinese women in the late nineteenth century had their feet bound small while they were children. The woman seen in this late nineteenth century photograph was an entertainer, a sing-song girl, but footbinding was also practiced by the families of scholars and merchants.
"Girl with bound feet 1870-1890. The feet would then regularly be unbound, washed and kneaded, with additional pain often caused by beating the sole of the foot to keep the bones broken. The feet were then rebound – ever more tightly each time. Whenever the binding session was over, the girl was immediately forced to walk on her feet to crush them further. None of this was carried out with any anesthetic."
Amelia Lee was a racial and gender minority in 1910 when this photo was taken. The Page Act of 1875 had the intended effect of severely decreasing the population of Chinese Americans. Laws like the Page Act that specifically barred female Asian immigrants made it nearly impossible for those Chinese who were born in the U.S. or Chinese who had immigrated before 1882 to have families.This was the first and only time in U.S. history that a racial group was singled out for immigration exclusion.
So immensely sweet that at first glance one would be entirely forgiven for mistaking this darling Victorian child as a doll. :)