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Another Victoria Chung node

Adapted from:
John Price and Ningping Yu, “A True Trailblazer: Victoria Chung Broke the Mould for Women and Chinese Canadians,” Times Colonist, 23 October 2011.

Named after British Columbia’s capital city where she was born and raised, Victoria Chung earned a medical scholarship and spent her life working as a medical missionary in China.

Victoria’s parents immigrated to Canada from China in the 1880s. Her father worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway then settled in Victoria. Her mother was educated in a Christian school in Guangzhou, where she received training as a midwife.

Their daughter, Toy Mea, was born in 1897. Her parents called her Victoria after the city and the Queen who had reigned for 60 years.

Victoria graduated from Vic High in 1916. The Chung family was active in the Chinese Methodist Church on Fisgard Street, and after graduation, Chung earned a medical scholarship from the Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Society. She took this scholarship to the University of Toronto where she was one of the first BC women to train there as a physician.

Victoria graduated from Vic High in 1916. The Chung family was active in the Chinese Methodist Church on Fisgard Street, and after graduation, Chung earned a medical scholarship from the Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Society. She took this scholarship to the University of Toronto where she was one of the first BC women to train there as a physician.

In 1923, the Women’s Missionary Society sponsored Chung to work at the Marion Barclay hospital in Jiangmen city in southern China. The same year that Chung left, Canada passed the Chinese Immigration Act, otherwise known as the Chinese Exclusion Act. Until it was repealed in 1947, this act ended Chinese immigration to Canada. The only exemptions were children born in Canada, consular officials, businessmen, and students. When Chung’s father and mother decided to join her in China in 1924, they were giving up their right to return to Canada. Over the next thirteen years, Chung did leave China twice to continue her medical training in Toronto, New York and London.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Chung had the option of leaving China, or facing internment like other missionaries. She decided to stay in China. She set up community clinics that provided health services for local people. After the war, she helped re-establish the Marion Barclay Hospital and took over as director. During the Korean War, she was unjustly accused of stealing hospital funds as a foreign spy. To avoid punishment she paid a large fine. The state later exonerated her and returned the money, which she donated to the hospital to purchase radiation equipment.

After the 1949 revolution, she remained a committed Christian, rather than joining the Communist Party, as her friend Dr. Annie Wong did. Even so, the Chinese government named Chung a “model worker” in the 1950s and later presented her with an award as a “national hero of culture.” Although she was not married, Chung adopted a son to keep the family line going. Chung continued to work as a physician, sometimes in rural communities, until her death from cancer in 1966.

Victoria Chung in a fishing village, ca. 1962.
Photo courtesy of Liang Xiaoqing and Chen Puqi.

Further reading:

Forster, Merna. 100 More Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces. Toronto: Dundurn, 2011.

Shulman, Deborah. “From the Pages of Three Ladies: Canadian Women Missionaries in Republican China.” MA Thesis, Concordia University, 1996.