Mary Mohammed (née Ling) was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her mother, Mrs. How Ling (née Chong Toy Sing) was born in China and sold in early childhood to a wealthy Chinese merchant family in Vancouver as a mui tsai, or servant girl. When How (George) Ling’s first wife died in childbirth, he chose Chong Toy Sing as a second wife in 1918. The Lings became the second Chinese family to settle in the city of Halifax. They worked a farm on the north end of the city overlooking Africville, and their daughter Mary grew up as her mother’s helper and closest confidante. When their farm was sold to developers, the family opened the Imperial Café in downtown Halifax, which served Western food to the many sailors and soldiers coming through the city during the war. In the 1950s, Mary and her mother assisted new Chinese immigrants adjust to life in Canada. But when Mary became engaged to a Trinidadian scientist, Halifax’s Chinese community ostracized the Ling family. Mary went on to raise four children and opened up the popular Halifax baked-goods business, Mary’s Bread Basket.
Dated October 30th, 1924, this immigration document was issued to Mary’s mother, Mrs. How Ling. Her maiden name is indicated on the document as Miss Chong Toy Sing. She arrived in Vancouver, British Columbia at the age of eleven on December 3, 1910. Eight years later she was married to How (George) Ling, who had traveled to Vancouver in search of a wife. The document specifies that while it does not declare that Mrs. Ling ‘was ever legally admitted into Canada, it may, unless cancelled upon presentation, be used when registering out under C.I.9.’ C.I.9. was a certificate granted to persons of Chinese ancestry at a port of departure, and limited the time he or she could leave the country and legally re-enter.