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Surprise speaks series focuses on noted doctor

Life, work of Tang to be explored at next session

Posted 5/17/24

The next AZ Speaks series event is coming to Surprise City Hall.

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Things To Do

Surprise speaks series focuses on noted doctor

Life, work of Tang to be explored at next session


The next AZ Speaks series event is coming to Surprise City Hall.

Public historian Mary Melcher will present “Dr. Pearl Tang: Path Breaker in Public Health” from 11 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, May 22 at 16000 N. Civic Center Plaza.

The event will be held in the Council Chambers inside the Mayor’s Atrium, and parking is free.

Melcher completed her Ph.D. in American history at Arizona State University in 1994, with fields in the 20th century, women’s history, and the West.

Melcher has worked as a curator in various museums and as a public history consultant. She was the lead historian for the Arizona Women’s Heritage Trail, a public history project combining women’s history with interpretation of historic sites.

She has conducted more than 150 oral histories and published numerous articles in historical journals and has a strong interest in women’s history in relation to reproduction. In 2012, she published “Pregnancy, Motherhood and Choice in Twentieth Century Arizona” with the University of Arizona Press.

Melcher’s subject, Tang, was born in 1922 in Shanghai, China. She met her future husband when he was serving in China with the U.S. Army.

According to her obituary at Legacy.com, Tang was married for more than 45 years to former judge Thomas Tang.

Judge Tang, who died in 1995, also served on the Phoenix City Council, as vice mayor, and a Superior Court judge before serving for years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He died in 1995.

After the two married, they moved to Phoenix right at the beginning of its growth expansion in the 1950s.

However, because she received her medical credentials from a foreign medical school, Pearl wasn’t allowed to practice medicine in the state due to the licensing rules of the time.

Her husband successfully argued her case before the State Board of Medical Examiners, allowing her to begin a career with Maricopa County.

In 1960, Dr. Pearl Mao Tang became chief of the Maricopa County Bureau of Maternal and Child Health.

Pearl Tang was instrumental in lowering the infant mortality rate in the state’s most populous county.

Working in the Phoenix metropolitan area and rural Maricopa Country, Tang dedicated her career to improving the health of mothers and children.

Her work, and that of public health nurses, aided families in migrant farm camps and impoverished urban areas.

Tang became an effective leader in public health, and her work impacted thousands of Arizonans. This presentation explores Tang’s career as well as historical conditions in Arizona which made her work so vital and needed.

Tang died in 2021 at the age of 99.

This program is made possible by Arizona Humanities.

Events are free, but registration is required at surpriseaz.gov/ArtsSignUp.

For Surprise arts and culture events visit surpriseaz.gov/ArtsCulture.

For information, contact the City of Surprise Arts, Culture and Library Department at 623-222-2920.