Chan Choy Siong
by Mukunthan, Michael
Chan Choy Siong (b. 1934, Singapore–d. 11 February 1981, Singapore) was a pioneering female politician and activist for women’s rights, and was influential in enacting the Women’s Charter.1
Raised in a poor family, Chan assisted her father in his chee cheong fun stall in Chinatown while studying at Nanyang Girls’ High School. She was known to be people-oriented, confident and a good public speaker. As a result of financial constraints, Chan was unable to complete her pre-university studies.2
Chan joined the People’s Action Party (PAP) at the age of 20, five months after the party was inaugurated in October 1954. Fluent in both Mandarin and Chinese dialects, Chan was elected as a city councillor in 1957 and won the seat for Delta in the 1959 Legislative Assembly general election. She represented the constituency until her retirement in 1970.3
A strong advocate for women’s rights, Chan fought for equal pay for men and women for work and an end to polygamy. She played a pivotal role in the campaigning and passing of the Women’s Charter in 1961.4
Chan was a member of the PAP central executive committee from 1957 to 1963.5 She spearheaded the formation of women’s sub-committees in PAP branches in the 1950s. Together with two another female members of the PAP, she formed the PAP Women’s League in 1956, the predecessor of today’s PAP’s Women’s Wing.6
On 11 February 1981, at the age of 49, Chan was killed in a car crash. She left behind her husband, then Minister for the Environment Ong Pang Boon (m. 29 May 1961), and three children.7
1. Nanyang Girls’ High School. (2012). 传薪= The Nanyang journey: 95 stories of connected lives. Singapore: Nanyang Girls’ High School, p. 18. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 373.5957 NAN)
2. Nanyang Girls’ High School. (2012). 传薪= The Nanyang journey: 95 stories of connected lives. Singapore: Nanyang Girls’ High School, p. 19. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 373.5957 NAN)
3. Chew, P. G. L., & Lam, J. L. (1993). Voices & choices: The women’s movement in Singapore. Singapore: Singapore Council of Women’s Organisation; Singapore Baha’I Women’s Committee, pp. 144–145. (Call no.: RSING 305.42095957 VOI)
4. Backup for the party for most of its 34 years. (1989, April 26). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official report. (1961, May 24). Women’s Charter Bill (as reported from select committee) (Vol. 14). Singapore: [s.n.], cols. 1545–1547. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
5. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 285. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
6. Leong, W. K., & Wong, A. K. (Eds.). (1993). Singapore women: Three decades of change. Singapore: Times Academic Press, pp. 286–291. (Call no.: RSING 305.42095957 SIN); Backup for the party for most of its 34 years. (1989, April 26). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Mdm Chan dies in car smash-up. (1981, February 13). The Straits Times, p. 10; Jacob, P. (1981, June 29). Album of Madam Chan – by Pang Boon. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Fong, L. (1981, February 13). Madam Chan – A figure of stature in her own right. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Tan, M. (1981, February 22). We need to salute this leader of women… The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Tan, W. L. (1970, April 5). ‘I shall continue to take part in politics’ says a retiring woman MP. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.