Dr. Margaret Chung - Inductee

1889 - 1959

Born in Santa Barbara, California, Dr. Chung was the first known American-born Chinese woman to become a physician. After completing her internship and residency in Chicago and Kankakee, Illinois, she established one of the first Western medical clinics in San Francisco's Chinatown in the 1920s. Chung achieved fame during the 1930s and 40s for her patriotic activities on behalf of China and the United States. Known as “Mom Chung,” she “adopted” over a thousand U.S. troops – dubbed the “Fair-Haired Bastards” – who pledged their fealty for her commitment to their well-being. Renowned for her hospitality and generosity, she sent care packages to the troops and hosted weekly Sunday suppers in her modestly-sized home in San Francisco where regular soldiers mingled with the likes of John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Tennessee Williams, Helen Hayes, and Tallulah Bankhead, along with politicians, and the military’s top brass – all bound to each other through their mutual affection for Chung and their common dedication to the Allied Cause. Chung used her considerable war-time celebrity to lobby for the creation of the WAVES – the U.S. women's naval reserve – but was never given public credit for the achievement nor was she permitted to join the WAVES, due to age, race, and suspected lesbianism. Described as a serious, commanding, almost regal person, Chung nevertheless had a bawdy sense of humor. Reinventing herself at will, she routinely flouted convention by adopting both hyper-masculine and Hollywood glamour personas, while also managing to guard her privacy in spite of her intimate relationships with lesbian poetess Elsa Gidlow and entertainer Sophie Tucker. A larger-than-life personality to the end, when Margaret Chung died in 1959 her pallbearers included Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, famed conductor Andre Kostelanetz and San Francisco Mayor George Christopher. Few civilian patriots have ever again achieved the level of celebrity and influence that was accorded to Dr. Margaret Chung.

Lesson Plans
Dr. Margaret Chung Bronze Memorial

Plaque Sponsor

Levi Strauss & Co.

Demography

Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Lesbian

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Asian/Pacific Rim

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch World War II (1939-1945)

Field(s) of Contribution

Medicine

Military

Politics

Commemorations & Honors

Three Flying Fortresses Named "Mama Chung" During World War II

San Francisco Municipal Railway's Central Subway Tunnel Boring Machine Named "Mom Chung" (2013)

Resources

Related Images

Dr. Margaret Chung Bronze Casting Source Image

Dr. Margaret Chung Reading

Dr. Margaret Chung With Her Adopted Sons

Dr. Margaret Chung Boarding Plane

Related Videos

WAVES: Women in the Navy World War II Newsreel

Authorship

Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Biography Vetted, Edited, and Certified By
Dr. Judy Tzu-Chun
Image Rights Usage Granted By
Rights Unknown
Image Source for Bronze Casting
Rights Unknown
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell