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MADAME CHIANG, LOOKING TIRED BUT DETERMINED, SPEAKS FROM SPECIAL ROSTRUM. Copyright Time Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With her Christian background and English fluency, Soong Mei-Ling, better known as Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, served as the symbol of the “modern, educated, pro-American China” the United States hoped to emerge during the 1930s and 1940s.[1] At the very same time, however, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek was criticized, by Americans and Chinese alike, as a “corrupt, power-hungry” symbol they feared and loathed.[2]

Madame Chiang Kai-Shek’s famous 1943 speech at the Los Angeles Hollywood Bowl took place in the midst of these differing perspectives of China during the 1930s and 1940s and thus proves to be a pivotal turning point during which American perceptions of China began to improve but at the same time polarize.

Perhaps even more important is the fact that though her speech focused on the promise that China was committed to the United Nations’ aims for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all peoples,” Madame’s speech was the climax of a story that spans two turbulent decades in which Chinese American communities and citizens were caught in an ever-changing dichotomy of American perceptions of the Chinese American identity.[3]


[1] Seth Faison, “Madame Chiang Kai-shek, a Power in Husband’s China and Abroad, Dies at 105,” The New York Times, (New York, NY), October 25, 2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/25/world/madame-chiang-kai-shek-a-power-in-husband-s-china-and-abroad-dies-at-105.html?pagewanted=all.

[2] Carl W. Weidenburner, “Madame Chiang in Hollywood,” Life Magazine, April 19, 1943, http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~cbi-theater-1/life041943/life041943.html.

[3] Seth Faison, “Madame Chiang Kai-shek, a Power in Husband’s China and Abroad, Dies at 105,” The New York Times, (New York, NY), October 25, 2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/25/world/madame-chiang-kai-shek-a-power-in-husband-s-china-and-abroad-dies-at-105.html?pagewanted=all.