Dr. Margaret Chung: Proud ‘Mom’ of WWII’s Fair-Haired Bastards

First Chinese American Female Physician and Wartime Celebrity

Planes of the 'Flying Tigers' unit in World War II.
In one of the more unlikely pairings of World War II, Margaret Chung, the country’s first Chinese-American female physician, helped recruit fighter pilots for the “Flying Tigers.” That unit of P40 aircraft, famed for its planes’ shark face nose art, was secretly equipped and trained by the U.S. military. Its pilots operated in China as mercenaries helping to repel Japanese air raids during the year before America officially entered the war.

From the time she was 10 years old, Margaret Chung wanted to become a doctor. But with no dolls or toys to practice on, she resorted to using banana peels to practice her suture technique. Born into a time when the stories of Chinese Americans were those of rejection and exclusion, Margaret Chung learned early on she would need to forge a distinctive path for herself if she were to achieve her dreams.

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Biddy Mason – From Enslaved to One of Los Angeles’ Wealthiest Women

A mural celebrates Biddy Mason's contributions to the development of early Los Angeles.
In 1949, for its new headquarters building in Los Angeles, the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company commissioned artist Charles Alston to create this mural memorializing the African American contributions to the creation of Los Angeles and the State of California. The overlay in the lower right is the only known photo of Biddy Mason. The red arrow points her out in the mural. Click image for larger color version of mural.

Born into slavery in 1818 and sold away from her parents as a child, Bridget “Biddy” Mason went from being a slave owner’s wedding present to his new bride to one of Los Angeles’ wealthiest women, and one of the first African American women to buy and own property in the United States.

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Against Lynchings and Jim Crow Laws: Mexican-American Activist Jovita Idár

Early 19th-Century Journalist and Feminist Founded League of Mexican Women

Jovita Idár and
A teacher turned journalist who championed the rights of Mexican communities on both sides of the south Texas border, Jovita Idár’s achievements were little-known to the outside world until recent years.

One of eight children born to a family of Mexican-American journalists and social activists in Laredo Texas in 1885, Jovita Idár went on to make her mark as a crusader for civil and women’s rights in a border region notorious for the racist and misogynistic policies and practices of its ruling white culture.

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Namahyoke Sockum Curtis In The Spanish-American War

Recruited to Solve a Critical Shortage, She Helped Elevate the Status and Role of U.S. Military Nurses

Nurses at a U.S. Army field hospital in Havana during the Spanish-American War
The only known photo of Namahyoke Sockum Curtis against an 1898 image of a U.S. Army Field hospital in Havana, Cuba, during the Spanish American War. Daughter of an African-American/Native American family, and a Black socialite who raised funds to build hospitals for non-whites in Chicago, she was selected by the U.S. Surgeon General to head the recruitment of desperately needed war-time nurses. It was the first time nurses served in dedicated, quasi-military Army units, leading to the establishment of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901.

As wars go, the Spanish-American War gets very little attention. But black women hired as nurses during what some called the “splendid little war” get even less. So you’re excused if you’ve never heard of a woman with the unusual name Namahyoke “Namah” Sockum Curtis, and her role in the Spanish-American War.

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Tye Leung Schulze, Women’s Rights Advocate, First U.S. Chinese Voter

Rescued Chinatown Sex Slaves in Turn of the Century San Francisco

A staunch human rights advocate and activist, Tye Leung Schulze worked throughout her career to free female Chinese sex slaves from American brothels. She was also the first Chinese-American voter.

Standing just over four feet tall, she was nicknamed “Tiny.” But when it came to character, compassion, and her dedication to civil rights and women’s rights, there was nothing small about Tye Leung Schulze.

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From One Room School to International Renown: Vernie Merze Tate

Vernie Merze Tate at Oxford
The first black female to receive a degree at Oxford,Vernie Merze Tate went on to counsel General General Dwight D. Eisenhower on disarmament issues.

As one of the first black families to settle in mostly-white Mecosta County, Michigan, thanks to the 1862 Homestead Act, Dr. Vernie Merze Tate’s great-grandparents were trailblazers. So it’s only natural she blazed her own trail, this time using education to break racial and gender barriers while amassing an impressive list of “firsts” along the way.

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