Friday, 10 April 2015

Chinese Women’s Association: 100 Fabulous Years

New book features Mr Lee Kuan Yew's pioneering aunt
Dr Lee Choo Neo was one of the founding members of Chinese women's group
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 9 Apr 2015

FORMER Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew is known by many to be a pioneer in Singapore politics, but few know that his aunt was also ahead of women in her time.

Dr Lee Choo Neo became the first female doctor here in 1919 - a time when few women went to school, let alone university.

She opened her own clinic specialising in maternity care, and her services were popular as mothers-to-be in those days were not comfortable with having their babies delivered by male doctors.

An avid tennis player, she also wrote an article for a London publication when she was just 18 years old about the life of a Chinese girl in Singapore.

Her brother, Mr Lee Chin Koon, is Mr Lee Kuan Yew's father. She died of a heart attack at the age of 52 in 1947.

She is one of many women featured in a new book by the Chinese Women's Association (CWA), which marks its 100th anniversary this year.

The oldest women's group here, it organises social activities for its members and raises funds for various charities.

The 304-page coffee table book, 100 Fabulous Years, features stories about each of the association's 23 founding members, including Dr Lee, as well as its past presidents and achievements.

It was launched yesterday at the National Museum of Singapore where Ms Ho Ching, wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, was guest of honour.

Many of the founding members were from prominent families and the book also has articles about the members' fathers and husbands.

CWA president Betty Chen said: "We all talk about how far-sighted Lee Kuan Yew was. His grandfather was equally so."

Dr Lee's father encouraged her to study medicine.

Mrs Chen told The Straits Times: "If her father did not pay for her education and support her, how could she have done it?"

Mrs Chen said it was important to produce such a book.

"I know many of the members personally, so I have to set this record down before I go, otherwise nobody else will remember," said the 88-year-old, whose mother was the CWA's president for 28 years at various times.

She hopes young women who read the book will be inspired to contribute to the community.

Yesterday, Ms Ho also toured an exhibition titled Leading Ladies: Women Making A Difference. It honours efforts of Singapore's women pioneers who were active in community work.

Jointly organised by the National Museum of Singapore, where it is held, and the CWA, the free exhibition opens today and runs until June 21.

The book costs $100. All sales proceeds will go to charity. To get a copy, call CWA on 6253-2912.

Tracing 100 years of history
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 9 Apr 2015

MEMBERS of various prominent Singapore families - spanning several generations - gathered yesterday for the launch of 100 Fabulous Years, a book produced by the grand old lady of women's groups here.

The century-old Chinese Women's Association (CWA) counts fifth-generation members in its ranks. It has about 300 members in total.

The book features stories of its founders, past presidents, members and achievements.

Those at the launch included descendants of key Singapore pioneers such as the late Mr Tan Keong Saik, whom Keong Saik Street in Chinatown is named after; and the late Mr Cheang Hong Lim, who donated the land where Hong Lim Park is sited.

The current president, Mrs Betty Chen, 88, is also the daughter of CWA's former president, Mrs May Wong.

Two centres, part of the Henderson Senior Citizen's Home which CWA managed for 32 years till 2009, are named after Mrs Wong.

Ms Sharon Chua, 29, is a fifth-generation member of the association and related to the late Mrs Lee Choon Guan, the association's founding president. She works in a bank's philanthropy advisory team and joined the association about two years ago.

She said: "Philanthropy is part of my job, and has been part of CWA from the start. I look forward to see how I can contribute to CWA and the community in my own way."

Exhibition on women pioneers to open on Thursday at the National Museum
By Andrea Ng, The Straits Times, 7 Apr 2015

An exhibition honouring the efforts of Singapore's women pioneers and their work in the community will be opened to the public on Thursday at the National Museum of Singapore.

The exhibition, "Leading Ladies: Women Making a Difference", was organised with Singapore's first and oldest women's association - the Chinese Women's Association (CWA).

Through a series of artefacts, photographs and furniture - ranging from an elaborate teak sideboard of Anglo-European design, imbued with Chinese ornamental elements, to a teak and glass display cabinet referred to as tu kacha by Peranakans - visitors will get to learn about the history and contributions of the association.

The CWA was established as the Chinese Ladies' Association in 1915, to promote the social needs of Chinese women and enhance the life skills of women in Singapore.

The stories of expatriate missionaries such as Ms Sophia Blackmore and Ms Sophia Cooke will also go on show at the exhibition. The missionaries, along with many other women, had left their mark in the education and healthcare scenes in Singapore since the 19th Century.

Ms Blackmore, a missionary from Australia, is the founder of what is currently known as Fairfield Methodist School and Methodist Girls' School, while English missionary Sophia Cooke founded the Young Women's Christian Association.

Others, like Dr Charlotte Ferguson-Davie, pioneered the first specialised clinic for women and children in Singapore in 1913. She later went on to establish the St Andrew's Mission Hospital for Women and Children in 1923.

Ms Angelita Teo, the museum's director, said: "The Leading Ladies: Women Making a Difference community exhibition presents a unique perspective of Singapore's heritage through the efforts and contributions of Singapore's women pioneers who were steadfast in their goal of improving the lives of others."

The exhibition will be at the Stamford Gallery, Level 1, from April 9 to June 21, 2015.

Admission is free.

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