Was Mom Chung a “Sister Lesbian”? Asian American Gender Experimentation and Interracial Homoeroticism

Lecture Description

Margaret Jessie Chung (1889-1959), the first American-born woman of Chinese descent to become a physician, became a war-time celebrity during World War II. She adopted over a thousand U.S. military personnel, politicians, and entertainers. This talk examines the historical significance of her life, not in terms of her accomplishments in the public realm of work and politics, but by focusing on her private choices. Chung decided not to marry or have children during a time when the social pressure for Chinese American women to do both was intense. Instead, she developed erotic relationships with white women. She also experimented with gender presentation, adopting masculine and feminine personas. This talk explores Chung’s gender identities as well as her homoerotic interracial relationships, expanding the existing understanding of Asian American sexuality during the first half of the twentieth century and revealing the ways in which women of color negotiated shifting gender, sexual, and racial norms from the late Victorian through the modern eras.


Gender, Masculinity, Femininity LGBTQ+

ALL TOPICS & TITLES: Go back to all topics and titles.

More Distinguished Lectureship Program Resources