Betty Lee Sung, Scholar of Chinese in America, Dies at 98

Betty Lee Sung, Scholar of Chinese in America, Dies at 98

They had five children. Betty worked in the laundry, which was on the first floor of their home. The family felt isolated, she recalled, avoiding movie theaters, the local pool and contact with outsiders, even doctors.

“If you got sick in our household,” she wrote, “you either recovered or died.”

It was after her father struggled to make ends meet during the Great Depression that her parents, in 1934, returned to China with their children. Betty was 9.

But her father soon went back to the United States, taking one son with him, and her mother and another child died in China. In 1938, as the invading Japanese neared, Betty, her older sister, Rose, and another brother sailed for Seattle. They later shocked their father by showing up at his home in Washington.

“Rose’s decision to flee from Toishan saved all our lives,” Dr. Sung wrote.

After working at the Library of Congress translating Chinese maps for the Army during World War II, she won a scholarship to the University of Illinois, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and economics in 1948. She met and married His Yuan Sung (who was known as Bill) and moved to New York.

Their marriage ended in divorce. In 1972, she married Charles Chia Mou Chung.

She is survived by her four children, Tina, Victor, Cynthia and Alan Sung; and six granddaughters.

Dr. Sung worked briefly as a secretary before being fired for deficient shorthand. The Voice of America hired her to write scripts for broadcasts to China about Chinese life in the United States.

“It was while I was working for V.O.A. that I found how much misinformation there was about Chinese Americans in the United States,” she said.

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