HomeHealthNeglected No Extra: Margaret Chung, Physician Who Was ‘Totally different From Others’

Neglected No Extra: Margaret Chung, Physician Who Was ‘Totally different From Others’

This text is a part of Neglected, a sequence of obituaries about outstanding folks whose deaths, starting in 1851, went unreported in The Instances.

Margaret Chung knew from age 10 that she needed to grow to be a medical missionary to China. She was impressed by tales her mom had instructed of life in a mission dwelling, 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 essential 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 college, on the College of Southern California, in 1916, her utility to be a medical missionary was rejected 3 times 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 identified American girl of Chinese language ancestry to earn a medical diploma, in keeping with her biographer.

She opened a personal observe in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It was one of many few locations that would offer Western medical care to Chinese language and Chinese language American sufferers, who have been usually 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 in the course of the Second Sino-Japanese Struggle (starting in 1937) and World Struggle 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 struggle 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 struggle.

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 drive. Her dad and mom, who had immigrated from China within the 1870s, have been barred from acquiring U.S. citizenship below the act. They confronted restricted job alternatives, so the household moved round California as they seemed 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 typically labored as a court docket interpreter.

Margaret herself was no stranger to arduous labor. She took on farming chores when her dad and mom have 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 training, she spent summer time evenings knocking on doorways to promote copies of The Los Angeles Instances as a part of a contest for a scholarship, which she gained. It paid for preparatory college, which enabled her to realize acceptance to the College of Southern California Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons in 1911.

“As the one Chinese language woman in the united statesC. medical college, I’m compelled to be completely different from others,” she mentioned in a 1913 interview. She reinvented herself as “Mike,” slicking again her black hair and dressing in a protracted blazer draped over a shirt and tie, finishing the outfit with a floor-length skirt. She labored all through faculty, in keeping with her biography, typically scrubbing dishes at a restaurant whereas finding out 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 observe 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 the town’s panorama, its dramatic hills cloaked in fog. After studying that no physician practiced Western drugs within the metropolis’s Chinatown, dwelling to the biggest Chinese language American inhabitants within the nation, she left her Los Angeles observe and arrange a clinic on Sacramento Road in 1922.

San Francisco was isolating. Folks 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 observe initially had issue attracting sufferers. However as phrase unfold, her ready room stuffed, in some circumstances with white vacationers curious to see her Chinese language-inspired furnishings and her session room, whose partitions have been plastered with photos of her celeb 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 certainly one of 4 division heads, main the gynecology, obstetrics and pediatrics unit whereas nonetheless operating her personal observe.

When Japan invaded the Chinese language province of Manchuria in September 1931, an ensign in the USA Naval Reserves, trying to help the Chinese language army, visited Chung at her observe. She invited the person, who was a pilot, and 6 of his buddies for a home-cooked dinner. It was the primary of many who she would host virtually each evening for months. It was, she wrote in her autobiography, “essentially the most egocentric factor I’ve ever achieved as a result of it was extra enjoyable than I had ever identified in all my life.”

Each Sunday, “Mother” personally catered suppers for lots of of her “boys.” By the top of World Struggle II, her “household” swelled to about 1,500. To assist maintain monitor, everybody had a quantity and group: Main pilots have been the Phi Beta Kappa of Aviation; those that couldn’t fly (together with celebrities and politicians) have been Kiwis; and the submarine items have 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 towards 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 Providers in 1942, a naval group higher often known as the WAVES. Desperate to help her nation, she sought to affix the group however her utility was rejected.

Regardless of her efforts, no official recognition of her contributions ever got here. After the struggle ended, attendance at her Sunday dinners dwindled. However, Chung continued to observe drugs, go to her army “sons” and write her memoir.

She died of ovarian most cancers on Jan. 5, 1959. She was 69.



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