Chiang Kai-Shek’s Widow Dies at 106

Friday, October 24th, 2003

Madame Chiang Kai-shek died yesterday — in New York. At age 106. There’s a lot I didn’t know about her. From Chiang Kai-Shek’s Widow Dies at 106:

Madame Chiang Kai-shek, once the most powerful woman in China, has died in her sleep aged 106 in her home in New York, finally bringing down the curtain on one of the most turbulent chapters of Chinese history.
A devout Christian educated at the elite Wellesley College in Massachusetts, she was born Soong May-ling in southern China and married Chiang Kai-shek in 1927, as he was crushing warlord armies to unify China under Nationalist rule.

She became her husband’s spokeswoman and China’s voice to the outside world, charming the American public with her impeccable English, spoken with a southern U.S. accent, elegant silk dresses and extravagant jewelry.

During World War II, Madame Chiang brought the U.S. congress to its feet with a passionate appeal for anti-Japanese aid. Her political adeptness as a roving ambassador for the war-ravaged country led the foreign press to dub her “the brains of China.”

She helped to establish the Nationalist air force and reached the pinnacle of her power in the late 1930s and early 1940s, when she influenced policy and strategy as Nationalist forces battled Japanese occupation troops.
Those who have met her say Madame Chiang’s charisma was matched only by her toughness. At a White House dinner with President Franklin Roosevelt she was asked about a troublesome U.S. union leader and how her government would deal with him.

The diminutive Madame Chiang silently drew a delicate finger across her throat.

She stole the limelight from her husband at the World War II Cairo conference attended by Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, intervening frequently with: “If you allow me, I shall put before you the generalissimo’s true thoughts.”

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