Soong Mei-ling (1897-2003), also Madame Chiang Kai-shek, was the wife of Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975). She was educated in the U.S. and spoke fluent English. She visited the U.S. in 1943 and spoke to a joint session of Congress. For many years, she was wildly popular in the U.S., a symbol of China's resistance to Japanese aggression during World War II.
The Soong family was China's most prominent family in finance. T.V. Soong, Mei-ling's brother, was governor of China's central bank and was said to be the richest man in the world. She graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and was an active Methodist. When she married Chiang in 1927, he converted to Christianity. They had no children. Their opulent wedding took place in Shanghai during the Northern Expedition. The expedition, which was led by Chiang, unified China under the leadership of the Nationalist Party.
With her poise, her perfect English and her exotic charm, she campaigned endlessly to familiarize Americans with China. Christians who supported missionary work in China were especially attracted to her. She was often named by Americans as one of their ten "most admired" women in the world.
After the Nationalists were defeated by the Communists in 1949, Soong and her husband, along with the government, army, and many businessmen fled to Taiwan. When Chiang died in 1975, her stepson Chiang Ching-kuo became president.
- Mirsky, Jonathan, "She Who Must Be Obeyed", New York Times, November 27, 2009
- Faison, Seth, "Madame Chiang Kai-shek, a Power in Husband's China and Abroad, Dies at 105", New York Times, Oct. 25, 2003
- Li, Laura Tyson. Madame Chiang Kai-shek: China's Eternal First Lady (2007)
- Soong was her family name; Chiang was his family name. Her first name was Mei-ling and his was Kai-shek. In Chinese, the family name is given first.
- Soong Mei-ling, “Addresses to the House of Representatives and to the Senate,” February 18, 1943.
- "Man and Wife of the Year", Time, 1937.