A museum honoring former -Chiayi mayor Hsu Shih-hsien (許世賢) opened on Saturday, with an exhibition showcasing her memorabilia and diaries.
Hsu was a significant influence on the development of Chiayi and the nation, exhibition convener Tsai Shu-chuan (蔡淑娟) said.
The opening ceremony was attended by former Chiayi mayor Chang Wen-ying (張文英) and Central Election Commission Chairperson Chang Po-ya (張博雅) — both Hsu’s daughters — as well Chiayi Mayor Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠) and other friends and family.
“Hsu’s attitude reflected the spirit of what it meant to be a Chiayi resident, and more over, a citizen of Taiwan — to do what was right no matter the cost,” Huang said.
“Hsu’s abilities and far-reaching vision were well known by all those who knew her, but her letters and diaries also help reveal a more personal side to her,” Tsai added.
In 1941 when Hsu and her husband Chang Chin-tung (張進通) first opened the Shun Tian Tang hospital in Chiayi, Tsai said Hsu Shih-hsien had written in her diary: “My greatest wish for starting the Shun Tian Tan Hospital is the hope of seeing the sick able to leave with [a heart filled with] gratitude.”
Hsu was not well-off at that time, in fact she had to write to her mother and ask her for help in raising the funds to start the hospital, Tsai said, adding that Hsu had never taken even a single cent from the poor who came to the hospital to be treated.
“She was very concerned about both the common people and the affairs of state, and even wrote to her husband when she was in Japan wishing to immediately return because she had heard of the difficulties with which Taiwan’s government was faced,” Tsai said, adding that Hsu had also written to her children telling them of scenes of suffering during World War II.
Her concern for the people was not confined to private messages between family members either, Tsai said, adding that after being elected as a provisional, and later full-time member, of the Taiwan Provincial Council in 1954, she had been almost the first to raise proposals for the draft jury act, the concept of governmental insurance subsidy for the unemployed, and the need for a consecutive state education plan.
“Hsu had also been a great proponent of women’s rights in Taiwan, having famously told her husband: ‘Females can also do great things’ when both of her male children died in early childhood,” Tsai said.