This text is a part of Neglected, a sequence of obituaries about outstanding folks whose deaths, starting in 1851, went unreported in The Occasions.
Margaret Chung knew from age 10 that she wished to change into a medical missionary to China. She was impressed by tales her mom had instructed of life in a mission residence, the place her mom stayed as a baby after emigrating from China to California. It’s believed that she named Margaret after the house’s superintendent.
Faith was an necessary a part of younger Margaret’s life in California. She was raised in a Presbyterian family in Santa Barbara, the place her father insisted that the household pray earlier than each meal and sang hymns with the kids earlier than mattress.
So it was a blow that after graduating from medical faculty, on the College of Southern California, in 1916, her utility to be a medical missionary was rejected thrice by administrative boards. Although she had been born on United States soil, she was thought to be Chinese language, and no funding for Chinese language missionaries existed.
Nonetheless, following that dream led her to a distinct accolade: Chung grew to become the primary recognized American lady of Chinese language ancestry to earn a medical diploma, based on her biographer.
She opened a non-public apply in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It was one of many few locations that would supply Western medical care to Chinese language and Chinese language American sufferers, who had been typically scapegoated because the supply of epidemics and turned away by hospitals. (Her father died after he was denied remedy for accidents he sustained in a automobile accident.)
As a doctor and surgeon through the Second Sino-Japanese Conflict (starting in 1937) and World Conflict II, she was praised for her patriotic efforts, together with beginning a social community in California for pilots, army officers, celebrities and politicians that she leveraged to assist in recruitment for the warfare and to foyer for the creation of a ladies’s naval reserve.
Each Sunday she hosted dinners for males within the army, catering for crowds of as much as 300 folks, who known as her “Mother.” Her efforts caught the eye of the press, which portrayed her as representing unity between China and the U.S., allies within the warfare.
Margaret Jessie Chung was born on Oct. 2, 1889, in Santa Barbara, Calif. On the time, the 1882 Chinese language Exclusion Act was in full pressure. Her mother and father, who had immigrated from China within the 1870s, had been barred from acquiring U.S. citizenship beneath the act. They confronted restricted job alternatives, so the household moved round California as they appeared for work. Her father, Chung Wong, was a former service provider who toiled on California farms and bought greens. Her mom, Ah Yane, additionally farmed and generally labored as a courtroom interpreter.
Margaret herself was no stranger to arduous labor. She took on farming chores when her mother and father had been unwell and helped increase all 10 of her siblings, duties that disrupted her education; she didn’t full the eighth grade till she was 17. To fund the remainder of her schooling, she spent summer time evenings knocking on doorways to promote copies of The Los Angeles Occasions as a part of a contest for a scholarship, which she received. It paid for preparatory faculty, which enabled her to realize acceptance to the College of Southern California School of Physicians and Surgeons in 1911.
“As the one Chinese language woman in the united statesC. medical faculty, I’m compelled to be totally different from others,” she mentioned in a 1913 interview. She reinvented herself as “Mike,” slicking again her black hair and dressing in an extended blazer draped over a shirt and tie, finishing the outfit with a floor-length skirt. She labored all through faculty, based on her biography, generally scrubbing dishes at a restaurant whereas learning textbooks propped on a shelf.
After she graduated and was rejected as a medical missionary, Chung turned to surgical procedure, performing trauma operations at Santa Fe Railroad Hospital in Los Angeles. Touring musicians and actors used the hospital; most famously, she eliminated the actress Mary Pickford’s tonsils.
Chung quickly established her personal personal apply in Los Angeles, with a clientele that included actors within the film trade’s early days in Holllywood.
Whereas accompanying two sufferers to San Francisco, Chung fell in love with town’s panorama, its dramatic hills cloaked in fog. After studying that no physician practiced Western medication within the metropolis’s Chinatown, residence to the most important Chinese language American inhabitants within the nation, she left her Los Angeles apply and arrange a clinic on Sacramento Avenue in 1922.
San Francisco was isolating. Individuals from the group invited Chung out, however she declined, writing in her unpublished autobiography, “I used to be embarrassed as a result of I couldn’t perceive their flowery Chinese language.” Rumors continued that as a result of she was single, she should have been occupied with ladies. She was protecting of her private life, however her biographer, Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, mentioned Chung had frequented a North Seashore speakeasy with Elsa Gidlow, who overtly wrote lesbian poetry.
Chung’s apply initially had problem attracting sufferers. However as phrase unfold, her ready room stuffed, in some instances with white vacationers curious to see her Chinese language-inspired furnishings and her session room, whose partitions had been plastered with photos of her movie star sufferers.
Years of planning and group fund-raising culminated within the opening of San Francisco’s Chinese language Hospital in 1925. Chung grew to become one in all 4 division heads, main the gynecology, obstetrics and pediatrics unit whereas nonetheless operating her personal apply.
When Japan invaded the Chinese language province of Manchuria in September 1931, an ensign in the US Naval Reserves, seeking to help the Chinese language army, visited Chung at her apply. She invited the person, who was a pilot, and 6 of his associates for a home-cooked dinner. It was the primary of many who she would host virtually each night time for months. It was, she wrote in her autobiography, “probably the most egocentric factor I’ve ever carried out as a result of it was extra enjoyable than I had ever recognized in all my life.”
Each Sunday, “Mother” personally catered suppers for a whole bunch of her “boys.” By the top of World Conflict II, her “household” swelled to about 1,500. To assist hold monitor, everybody had a quantity and group: Main pilots had been the Phi Beta Kappa of Aviation; those that couldn’t fly (together with celebrities and politicians) had been Kiwis; and the submarine models had been Golden Dolphins.
She known as upon influential members of her community to secretly recruit pilots for the American Flying Tigers, an American volunteer group that pushed again in opposition to Japan’s invasion of China. She additionally enlisted two of her Kiwis to introduce a invoice within the U.S. Home and Senate that led to the creation of Ladies Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Companies in 1942, a naval group higher often known as the WAVES. Desirous to help her nation, she sought to hitch the group however her utility was rejected.
Regardless of her efforts, no official recognition of her contributions ever got here. After the warfare ended, attendance at her Sunday dinners dwindled. However, Chung continued to apply medication, go to her army “sons” and write her memoir.
She died of ovarian most cancers on Jan. 5, 1959. She was 69.