Teresa Hsu Chih (1898-2011)

Humanitarian and social worker

Teresa Hsu Chih embodied the true spirit of unwavering altruism.

Born into poverty and abandoned by her father, Hsu faced much hardship as a child. She left China for Penang with her grandmother, mother and three siblings. There, she worked as a cleaner in a convent and learned English. In 1933, she left for Hong Kong, where she worked as a cleaner and continued to learn English, shorthand and typing. Six years later, when the Japanese was set to invade Hong Kong, Hsu left for China, and worked at a German news agency as a secretary and bookkeeper. Being so close to the Second Sino-Japanese War, she felt compelled to quit her high-paying job and volunteer at the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, where she aided injured soldiers as a nurse.

Her humanitarian work took her to several places across the world and eventually she settled in Singapore as the matron of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital in 1963. Two years later, she established the Home for the Aged Sick, which was one of the first homes in Singapore for the sick elderly.

After she retired, Hsu continued to help the impoverished through Heart-to-Heart Service visits that distributed food and cash allowances.

Alice Pennefather (1903-1983)

Pioneering Female Athlete

In her time, it was rare to see women making waves in the field of sports. But Alice Pennefather was an outstanding sportswoman, talented in badminton, tennis and hockey.

Pennefather started playing badminton in 1919, at the age of 16. In 1931, she entered the Singapore National Badminton Championships. That year, she emerged the women’s singles champion. She also won this title thrice more in the following years. Then, in 1937, she won singles, doubles and mixed doubles categories in the Malayan Badminton Championships.

The outstanding athlete was also formidable on the tennis court and was the Singapore Ladies Tennis Champion in 1936.

She was also hockey captain of the Girls’ Sports Club (GSC) that was formed in 1930 to encourage Eurasian girls to take part in sports. Under Pennefather’s charge, the GSC hockey team became one of the top in Singapore.

She continued to compete well into her 40s. At the age of 48, she won the Singapore National Badminton Championships again, in the mixed doubles category.

Her illustrious and long career in the field of sports earned her several endearing nicknames such as “The Sporting Grandmother” and “The Grand Old Lady of Sport”.


To commemorate the Singapore Bicentennial and honour the contributions of these early pioneers, a limited edition $20 currency note, featuring eight personalities, was launched at the Istana Open House on 5 June 2019. Members of the public may purchase this note at major banks from 10 June 2019 onwards. There are 2 million pieces available.

Be sure to reserve your tickets early for this immersive experience that showcases key moments in Singapore's 700-year history.


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