During this last week of National Asian Heritage Month, I wanted to introduce readers to Dr. Victoria Chung. Toy Mea Chung was born in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1897, the same year that Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. Perhaps this is why her parents chose the English name of Victoria for her.
From an early age, she had a dream of becoming a medical missionary. But British Columbia, in 1916, the year she graduated from Victoria High School, did not allow Chinese to practice medicine. She overcame these barriers and realized her dream elsewhere.
In 2012, Dr. Victoria Chung was celebrated as a National Hero of China. The bronze bust below was unveiled on October 8, in conjunction with the hospital’s centennial. In her birthplace of Victoria, the day was designated Dr. Victoria Chung Day. How did this happen, that a poor Chinese girl from a remote part of North America, would be celebrated in such a way?
I had included her amazing story, cobbled from limited written sources available at the time, in my book, City in Colour: Rediscovered Stories of Victoria’s Multicultural Past (2018). I knew that Dr. John Price, a professor of History at the University of Victoria was researching a book about Dr. Chung, but his book was not released until a year after mine.
I was excited and honoured to have been asked to review A Woman In Between: Searching for Dr. Victoria Chung, by John Price and Ningping Yu, and to learn more about this incredible woman.
This is how Price and Yu described their increasing interest in Dr. Chung, as they researched her life:
“Originally, the reason for searching out the story of Dr. Chung was to include it as a single chapter among others in another book I was working on that focussed on the stories of a dozen or so people with unique, transpacific lives. As our research progressed, however, it became clear that a chapter alone would not suffice. That this Victorian-born woman of Chinese heritage navigated life in a Christian home, a public high school, an all-white medical facility, and then in a small city in China seemed – well – pretty incredible. That she did so as a Canadian missionary, enduring the war years in China and deciding to remain there even after the revolution, took the story into another realm altogether. Who was this woman? Answering this question was enticing – a mystery that was hard to resist and potentially rich with insights into the politics of remembering and forgetting (p. xxiv.)”
Read the full review on the
British Columbia Review webpage