Introduction

Madame Chiang Kai-Shek speaking. Copyright Los Angeles Public Library - Harry Quillen Collection. All Rights Reserved.

Perhaps due, in part, to the differing perceptions Americans had of her, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek serves as an exemplar of the conflicting Chinese American perceptions Chinese American women in Los Angeles faced, more specifically: (1) She was the filial wife, “raising money and lobbying for support of her husband’s government,” but at the same time she traveled broadly across the United States during the 1930s and 1940s, disregarding the traditional role of a domesticated wife; and (2) She developed a stellar image with the American public as a symbol of the possibility of a democratic China while fighting for the end of the Chinese Exclusion Act, but Americans, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, were still “disillusioned” by the thought of a Chinese woman ever learning “how to live democracy.”[1]

The Madame Chiang Project understands that these conflicting circumstances were experienced not only by Madame Chiang Kai-Shek but Chinese Americans in and around LA Chinatown during the 1930s and 1940s, as well. The Project’s emphasis of what some may view as “average” Chinatown residents is thus a recognition that each unique historical perspective adds another facet to the full Chinese American experience in Los Angeles Chinatown.


[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.