From White Woman’s Burden to Orientalized Motherhood: The Strange Career of Dr. “Mom” Chung

Lecture Description

During World War II, Mom Chung’s was the place to be in San Francisco. Soldiers, movie stars, and politicians gathered at her home to socialize, to affirm their dedication to the Allied cause, and to express their affection for their adopted mother, Dr. Margaret Chung. Born in 1889 in Santa Barbara, California, Chung would become the first known American-born Chinese female physician when she graduated from the University of Southern California in 1916. She established one of the first western medical clinics in San Francisco Chinatown in the 1920s before achieving celebrity status during the international conflicts of the 1930s and 1940s. This talk examines Chung’s interracial surrogate family and her own orientalized motherly persona as symbols of the selectively expanded American nation during World War II. It also traces Chung’s use of maternalist strategies for racialized female empowerment to the complex legacies of white female missionary reform movements among Chinese and Chinese American peoples during the late Victorian era.


Asian American Gender, Masculinity, Femininity

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