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ONLINE—UNLADYLIKE2020: Margaret Chung—First American-Born Chinese Female Doctor

May 26May 27

Free

Margaret Chung, the first Chinese American woman physician. Original artwork by Amelie Chabannes.

Releasing weekly on the American Masters and UNLADYLIKE2020 websites starting in March, Unladylike2020 is a multimedia series consisting of a one-hour special for broadcast and 26 digital short films featuring courageous, little-known and diverse female trailblazers from the turn of the 20th century. These women achieved many firsts, including earning an international pilot’s license, becoming a bank president, founding a hospital, fighting for the desegregation of public spaces, exploring the Arctic, opening a film studio, and singing opera at Carnegie Hall. Presenting history in a bold new way, American Masters — Unladylike2020, produced and directed by Charlotte Mangin, brings these incredible stories back to life through original artwork and animation, rare historical archival footage, and interviews with descendants, historians and accomplished modern women who reflect upon the influence of these pioneers.

On May 27, watch the story of Margaret Jessie Chung (1889–1959), the eldest of 11 children in a Chinese immigrant family, who graduated from the University of Southern California Medical School in 1916. As a student, she was the only woman in her class, wore masculine dress, and called herself ‘Mike.’ The first American-born Chinese female doctor, Chung was initially denied residencies or internships in US hospitals. In the early 1920s, she helped establish the first Western hospital in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and led its OB/GYN and pediatrics unit, where she treated the local Chinese American community along with various celebrities as a surgeon. She became a prominent behind-the-scenes political broker during World War II, establishing a network of thousands of men in the military and navy that referred to her as ‘Mom Chung’ and themselves as her ‘fair-haired bastards.’ Chung also helped establish WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services, the women’s branch of the naval reserves during World War II, which helped pave the way for women’s integration into the U.S armed forces. Interviewees: biographer Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, Professor of Asian American studies at the University of California, Irvine and author of Dr. Mom Chung of the Fair-Haired Bastards; emergency medicine doctor and researcher Dr. Esther Choo, founder of Time’s Up Healthcare and Equity Quotient.

A vast interactive website features the stories of over 100 diverse and extraordinary women from the turn of the 20th century who broke barriers and achieved tremendous professional heights.

Read on for more about this project, and PBS’ summer-long celebration of female trailblazers here.

UNLADYLIKE 2020 is supported by California Humanities through a California Documentary Project grant.