Song Meiling (1897–2003)
Song Meiling (1897–2003)
Chinese first lady. Name variations: Soong or Sung May-ling, Mayling, or Mei-ling; Madame Chiang, Madame Chiang Kai-shek or Madame Chiang Kaishek; Mme. Jiang Jieshi; Chiang Mei-ling. Pronunciation: Soong MAY-ling. Born Mar 5, 1897, in Shanghai, China; died Oct 23, 2003, in New York, NY; youngest dau. of Charlie Jones Song (business leader and philanthropist born Hon Chao-Shun or Jia-shu Song) and Ni Guizhen (Ni Kweitseng, dau. of a wealthy scholar family in Shanghai who believed in Christianity, also known as Song Guizhen); sister of Song Ailing (1890–1973), Song Qingling (1893–1981) and T. V. Song; educated at Miss Potwin's preparatory school in Summit, New Jersey; attended Wesleyan College in Georgia; graduate of Wellesley College, 1917; m. Chiang Kai-shek (1887–1975, nationalist leader and ruler of China, 1927–49), on Dec 1, 1927 (died 1975).
Wife of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and leading member of the most influential Chinese family of 1st half of 20th century, was undoubtedly the most powerful woman of her time; spent school years in US and spoke English with a lilting Georgia accent; returning to Shanghai (1917), became one of the city's leading socialites; community-minded, was the 1st woman and the 1st Chinese national to serve on Municipal Council's child labor committee, which issued a damning report on sweatshop conditions (1924); met Chiang Kai-shek (1921), whose armies controlled much of China; married and moved to Nanjing (Nanking), where Chiang was selected to head Guomindang government (1927); as First lady of China, organized hospitals, nursing corps, and schools for orphans; served continually on government committees, made inspection tours, and frequently accompanied Chiang to front lines, where he was 1st fighting warlords and then Communists; was the spearhead of Chiang's "New Life Movement"; since he spoke no English, served as his interpreter and voice to the Western world, thereby possessing untold influence in crucial diplomatic negotiations; now known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek, was an enormous asset in molding Western opinion; during war with Japan, organized the evacuation of thousands of Hankou (Hankow) factory workers and their families (1938), led the National Refugee Children's Association, and with sister Ailing, started the Women's Advisory Committee, an effective war-relief group; often broadcast to US, pleading with Americans to boycott Japanese goods and to stop supplying oil to Japan; her books saturated the American market, including Messages in War and Peace (1938), This Is Our China (1940), China Shall Rise Again (1941) and We Chinese Women (1943); with China as a US ally, addressed both houses of Congress separately (Feb 1943), appealing to US to alter its wartime priorities by defeating Japan before tackling Germany; toured US, asking for aid; was also in US to secure American military aid for Chiang's war against the Communist forces of Mao Zedong (1948–50); returned to Asia, this time not to China, which was under Mao's rule, but to the island fortress of Taiwan, where husband had set up a rump government (Jan 1950); continued involvement in social work, particularly orphanages, schools, and groups advancing the welfare of women; following death of husband (1975), settled in Lattingtown, Long Island, at estate of nephew David Kung.
See also Roby Eunson, The Soong Sisters (Watts, 1975); Emily Hahn, The Soong Sisters (Doubleday, 1941); Sterling Seagrave, The Soong Dynasty (Harper & Row, 1985); and Women in World History.