The Susan Chun Lee Collection consists of approximately 1,800 photographs of Lee’s family and friends, a small number of documents, a scrapbook, and a small collection of phonograph recordings.
Susan Chun (1895-1969) was born in 1895/96 in P’yongyang, Korea, the youngest of three daughters and a son. She married K.S. Lyu (You K. Sung) in 1913/1914. Lyu was sent to the United States soon afterward for education at Boston University and eventually established a business in Los Angeles, California, under the name of K.S. Lyu & Co. His business distributed general merchandise imported from China.
In 1914, Susan Chun gave birth to her first daughter, Ok Hei (Stella), and on February 3, 1916, at the age of twenty-two, received a passport to travel to Hawaii. The purpose was to meet her husband and seek further education. On June 10, 1916, she sailed from Yokohama, Japan, on the Shinyo Maru with her two-year-old daughter. In Hawaii, she taught in the Korean School at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and met her husband, who joined her from the mainland United States. On June 16, 1918, she gave birth to her second daughter, Ock In (Ellen).
On May 24,1921, she divorced K.S. Lyu in Hawaii and subsequently married Henry Dongbin Lee in 1921/1922.
In addition to teaching at the Korean Language School of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Susan Lee perpetuated Korean culture by organizing Korean music and dance performances for the Honolulu Academy of Arts and other community organizations. She also served as president of the Korean Ladies Relief Society and was the only female editor of the Taepyŏngyang Chubo (Korean Pacific Weekly). She continued to serve the Korean people during the Korean War by hosting Korean Navy officers and sailors whose ships stopped in Hawaii.
In addition to material related to Susan Chun Lee and Henry Dongbin Lee, the collection includes substantial material related to Lee’s daughters, Ok Hei (Stella) and Ock In (Ellen), and to her grandson, Timothy Y.C. Choy.
A guide to the collection is available in the library.