Dorothy Chacko
Kyoto, Japan
Died30 December 1992
Resting placeChester Rural Cemetery
39°51′37″N 75°22′05″W / 39.86028°N 75.36806°W / 39.86028; -75.36806
Other namesDorothy Dunning Chacko
Occupation(s)Social worker, physician
Years active1932-1992
Known forMedical and social service
SpouseJoseph Chacko
ChildrenTwo sons and a daughter
Parent(s)Morton Dexter Dunning
Mary Ward Dunning
AwardsPadma Shri
County of Delaware Hall of Fame
GSEP Take the Lead Honour
Smith College Medal.

Dorothy Dunning Chacko (1904 – December 30, 1992) was an American social worker, humanitarian[1] and medical doctor, whose efforts were reported behind the establishment of a lepers' colony at Bethany village, in Ganaur, Sonepat district in the Indian state of Haryana.[2] She was a Hall of Famer of the County of Delaware, Pennsylvania[3] a recipient of the Take the Lead Honour from the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania[4] and the Smith College Medal.[5] She was honoured by the Government of India in 1972 with Padma Shri, the fourth highest Indian civilian award.[6]


We landed in India with 10 rupees, five assorted degrees, two suitcases and a steamer trunk, says Dorothy Chacko, about her relocation to India in 1932.[7]

Smith College campus
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons entrance

Dorothy Dunning was born in 1904 in Kyoto, Japan to congregational missionary couple, Morton Dexter and Mary Ward Dunning as one among their six children,[8] when they were working in Japan.[9] She did her early schooling there and moving to the US at the age of 16,[2] she completed her school education at the Bradford Academy, Massachusetts in 1921.[9] She did her initial college education at the Smith College in Northampton from where she graduated in 1925,[9] standing first in the examinations.[2] Choosing a career in medicine, she secured a graduate degree in medicine from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York in 1929 and did her internship at the Metropolitan Hospital Center, New York[10] becoming the first female resident of the hospital.[2] She also passed an advanced course in Hygiene from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in 1932.[2]

In 1930, she met the Indian pastor, C. Joseph Chacko, who had come to US (1924)[11] for his doctoral research in international law at the University of Columbia and they got married in 1932. She moved to India when Joseph Chacko returned to his home land in June 1932[9] to join as a faculty member of international law at the University of Punjab.[10] When India got independence in 1947, she acquired Indian citizenship and continued her practice in India.[9]

Chacko spent her early Indian days in Kerala, her husband's native place, and practiced medicine and got involved in social activities. She was one of the founders of Mahila Samajam (Women's forum) for the Church of the East in Kerala which, over the years grew to become a 1000-member organization involved in missionary and social activities.[11][12] Later, she moved to North India, when Joseph shifted his base there, he would eventually retire as the Professor and the Head of the Department of Political Science from the University of Delhi.[9] There, she helped found a lepers' colony, Bethany Baptists Village Leper Colony,[13] at Ganaur, in Sonepat district in Haryana.[14][15] Initially she started as a teacher at the Woodstock School, Mussoorie[7] but later, resumed her medical career as the Chief Doctor at the Methodist village clinic, New Delhi and served as the chief medical officer of the World Council of Churches conference took place in New Delhi in 1962.[2] She also headed the board of the Christian Medical College, Ludhiana for a period.[2]

In 1967, Joseph Chacko accepted the post of a visiting professor at the Pennsylvania Military College, (present day Widener University) and Chacko family moved to Chester, Pennsylvania.[2][10] She continued her medical practice by joining Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Upland as a staff physician at its maternal and infant-care clinics.[2][10] Here, she co-founded Chester Art Guild to promote art among the Chester residents and was active with Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) of which she served as the president from 1974 to 1976.[2]

Dorothy Chacko died on 30 December 1992[10] at her Chester home at the age of 88 and was buried at the Chester Rural Cemetery.[2] Joseph and Dorothy Chacko had three children, eldest son, Joseph Chacko, an engineer based in California, the younger son, John Chacko, a medical doctor practicing in Regina, Canada and the youngest, Mary Russel, working in Hawai as a congregational minister.[9]

Awards and honours

Dorothy Chacko was honoured with the Smith College Medal by her alma mater, Smith College, in 1970[5] and she was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Delaware County, Pennsylvania in 1996.[3] The Government of India awarded her the fourth highest Indian civilian honour of Padma Shri in 1972. The Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania awarded her the Take the Lead Honour[4] and the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, the YWCA, and the Pennsylvania Medical Society also honoured her on different occasions.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Marie Andrews (2011). The Power of Determination. Xlibris Corporation. p. 54. ISBN 9781462819553.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k McLarin, Kimberly J (1 January 1993). "Dorothy Chacko, Selfless At Home, Abroad". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philly. p. B06. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Hall of Fame" (PDF). Delaware County, Pennsylvania. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Take the Lead Honour" (PDF). Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Dorothy Dunning Chacko 1925 (1970)—Smith College Medalists". Smith College. 2015. Archived from the original on 14 August 2016. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
  6. ^ "1972: #72, Dr.(Mrs.)Dorothy Dunning Chacko, PS, DEL, Medicine—Padma Awards Directory (1954-2013), Year-Wise List" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs (Public Section). 14 August 2013. p. 47. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Padma Bhushans, Padma Shris and Wood Stock". Wood Stock School. 2015. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
  8. ^ "Dunning. Harriett Westbrook Dunning". Courant. 5 October 1994. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "Woman doctor helps childless wives in India". Owosso Argus Press. 1 February 1968. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Dorothy Dunning Chacko". Columbia University. 2015. Archived from the original on June 3, 2021. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
  11. ^ a b "The Consecration Of The Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV" (PDF). Shodhganga. 2015. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
  12. ^ Mar Aprem (1983). The Chaldean Syrian Church of the East. ISPCK. p. 64.
  13. ^ "Lott Carey Baptist Mission (India) Opens A Church at Bethany Leprosy Colony Gannaur, Haryana". Baptist Informer. 2015. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
  14. ^ "CCMC Doctor gives new life to Indian lepers". Delaware County Daily Times. 2015. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
  15. ^ "Bethany Village". Delaware County Daily Times. 12 May 1973. Retrieved May 31, 2015.