Soong May-ling or Soong Mei-ling, also known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek (ca 1897 – October 23 2003) was the youngest of the three Soong sisters. As the wife of President Chiang Kai-shek, she played a prominent role in the politics of the Republic of China.
In Shanghai, May-ling attended the McTyeire School for Girls with her sister, Ching-ling, before their father arranged to have them further their education in the United States in 1907. Initially, May-ling and Ching-ling were attending a private school in Summit, New Jersey. In 1908, Ching-ling was accepted by her sister Ai-ling's alma mater, Wesleyan College, at the age of 15 and the two sisters moved to Macon, Georgia to join Ai-ling. However, problem rose as May-ling could neither gain permission to stay with her sister on campus as a family member nor could she gain acceptance as a student due to her young age. May-ling spent the subsequent year in Demorest, Georgia, where one of Ching-ling's Wesleyan friends' family resided. The friend's mother took care of May-ling and enrolled her as an 8th grader at the Piedmont College. A year later, in 1909, Wesleyan's newly appointed president, William Newman Ainsworth, gave May-ling special permission to stay at Wesleyan and assigned her special tutors. May-ling was officially registered as a freshman at Wesleyan in 1912 at the age of 15. She then transferred to Wellesley College a year later to be closer to her older brother, T.V, who, at the time, was studying at Harvard. By then both her sisters had graduated and returned to Shanghai. She graduated from Wellesley as one of the 33 Durant Scholars on June 19, 1917 with a major in English literature and minor in philosophy. As a result of being educated in English all her life, she spoke excellent English, with a pronounced Georgia accent which helped her connect with American audiences
In the United States, she drew crowds as large as 30,000 people and made the cover of TIME magazine, first with her husband as "Man and Wife of the Year" and second under the title "Dragon Lady. Both husband and wife were on good terms with Time Magazine senior editor and co-founder Henry Luce, who frequently tried to rally money and support from the American public for the Kuomintang. On February 18, 1943, she became the first Chinese national and second woman to address the U.S. Congress.
After the defeat of her husband's government in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, Madame Chiang followed her husband to Taiwan, while her sister Soong Ching-ling stayed on the mainland, siding with the communists. As the Generalissimo aged, Madame Chiang seized power by assuming the role of "interpreter". Madame Chiang continued to play a prominent international role. She was a Patron of the International Red Cross Committee, honorary chair of the British United Aid to China Fund, and First Honorary Member of the Bill of Rights Commemorative Society. Through the late 1960s she was included among America's 10 most admired women.
After the death of her husband in 1975, Madame Chiang assumed a low profile. Chiang Kai-shek was succeeded to power by his eldest son Chiang Ching-kuo, from a previous marriage, with whom Madame Chiang had rocky relations. In 1975, she emigrated from Taiwan to her family's 36 acre (14.6 hectare) estate in Lattingtown, Long Island, where she kept a portrait of her late husband in full military regalia in her living room.
Madame Chiang returned to Taiwan upon Chiang Ching-kuo's death in 1988, to shore up support among her old allies. However, Chiang's successor as president, Lee Teng-hui, proved to be more adept at politics than she was, and consolidated his position. As a result, she again returned to the U.S.
Madame Chiang made a rare public appearance in 1995 when she attended a reception held on Capitol Hill in her honor in connection with celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. Madame Chiang also made her last visit to Taiwan in 1995.
In the 2000 Presidential Election on Taiwan, the Kuomintang produced a letter from her in which she purportedly supported the KMT candidate Lien Chan over independent candidate James Soong (no relation). James Soong himself had never disputed the authenticity of the letter.
Soong sold her Long Island estate in 2000 and spent the rest of her life in her Gracie Square apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan surrounded only by black-suited bodyguards who cleared the lobby as she passed.
When Madame Chiang was 103 years old, she had an exhibition of her Chinese paintings in New York. To this date her work is not for sale.
She can talk beautifully about democracy. But she does not know how to live democracy.|30px|30px|Eleanor Roosevelt
Direct, forceful, energetic. Loves power, eats up publicity and flattery... Can turn on charm at will and knows it.|30px|30px|Joseph Stilwell
Madame Chiang was a close friend of the United States throughout her life, and especially during the defining struggles of the last century. Generations of Americans will always remember and respect her intelligence and strength of character. On behalf of the American people, I extend condolences to Madame Chiang's family members and many admirers around the world.|30px|30px|George W. Bush