Madame Chiang (Mei-ling Soong)
BiographyWen-ch'ang, Kwangtung Province, China
Mei-ling was the fourth of six children born to Charlie Soong, a Methodist minister who acquired a fortune in commercial publishing. She attended college in the United States, earning a degree in English Literature in 1917. Following in her well-wed sisters' footsteps (Ai-ling Soong married wealthy banker H.H. Kung; Ching-Ling Soong became the wife of Dr. Sun Yat-sen (Yat-sen Sun), Mei-ling married Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek ('Kai-shek Chiang') in 1927. The Soong family fortune played an enormous role in the Chinese revolt against the Manchu dynasty and was instrumental in financing the Nationalist revolution. Read more... translator and secretary, and he benefited greatly from her political acumen. Madame Chiang traveled extensively to unify China. Fluent in English and Chinese, she was a consummate politician. Even Kai-Shek's enemies were admirers of Madame Chiang, whom they found sweet, reasonable, and sympathetic. She was so prominent in the war effort that General Stilwell recommended, only half-jokingly, that she be appointed Minister of Defense. During her American goodwill tours, Madame Chiang became a folk hero. Her speeches were attended by up to 30,000 people. She twice made the cover of Time magazine and was the model for the Dragon Lady, a character in a popular comic strip by Milton Caniff. Her good looks and Western demeanor emphasized similarities between two cultures. Her celebrity status was considered a key element in winning funds, airplanes, and weapons from the Allies to aid China's fight against the Japanese. She addressed Congress in 1943, only the second woman and the first Chinese person to do so, and received a 4-minute standing ovation. An accomplished artist and author of four books, she remained at the forefront of the fight against Communism until the Nationalist retreat to Taiwan. While exiled in Taiwan from 1949 to 1975, she was still considered one of the most politically important women in the world and continued her crusade for aid to China. After the generalissimo's death, Madame Chiang moved back to the U.S. She spent the rest of her life in New York City, making occasional appearances and exhibiting her paintings, until death overtook her at the age of 105.