This article is part of Overlooked, a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.
Margaret Chung: A Pioneering American Woman
Margaret Chung’s passion for medicine and her dream of becoming a medical missionary to China stemmed from her upbringing and her personal experiences. Born in Santa Barbara, California in 1889 to Chinese immigrant parents, Chung was raised in a Presbyterian household that placed great importance on religion.
After graduating from medical school at the University of Southern California in 1916, Chung faced multiple rejections when applying to be a medical missionary due to her Chinese-American heritage. Undeterred, she opened a private practice in San Francisco’s Chinatown, where she provided Western medical care to the Chinese and Chinese American population.
Chung’s career took a patriotic turn during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. She used her social connections to recruit pilots, military officials, celebrities, and politicians for the war effort. She even hosted dinners for soldiers every Sunday, earning her the nickname “Mom.”
Despite facing discrimination and stereotypes, Chung persevered and left a lasting impact on her community. She played a crucial role in the establishment of San Francisco’s Chinese Hospital, where she served as one of the department heads. She also advocated for the creation of the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services (WAVES), a naval group comprised of women.
Chung’s contributions were largely unrecognized during her lifetime, but her dedication and selflessness never wavered. She continued practicing medicine, caring for her military “sons,” and documenting her experiences until her death in 1959 from ovarian cancer.
Today, Margaret Chung’s legacy lives on as a trailblazer for women in medicine and a symbol of unity between China and the United States.
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