Madame Chiang Kai-shek, seated portrait. Copyright UC Regents – Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive. All Rights Reserved.

Madame Chiang Kai-shek was born Soong May-ling, the youngest of three daughters in the influential Soong family. Her father was a wealthy supporter and confidante of the founder of modern China, Sun Yat-sen.[1] One brother was the financier of the Flying Tigers air squadron during World War II. Another sister married the Minister of Finance. Needless to say, May-ling was destined for greatness.

May-ling was born and raised in China, but traveled to the United States in her later years to attend the prestigious Wellesley College. Following her education, she met and eventually married Chiang Kai-shek, who later became the leader of the Kuomingtang. Her position as the First Lady of China allowed her to wield considerable influence in China and abroad. Her poise, charm, and grace helped win hearts for the beleaguered Chinese people the world over, a diplomatic force perhaps no better seen than in her tour of the United States in 1943. While in America, Madame Chiang Kai-shek spoke in front of Congress (the first woman ever to do so) and rallied support in every major city in the nation, from Boston and New York to Chicago and San Francisco.[2] Her visit to Los Angeles was her final public appearance.

The United States tour, and its climax in Los Angeles, was arguably the pinnacle of her life in the public eye. Madame Chiang Kai-shek continued to advocate for her country, but following the Republic of China’s retreat to the island of Taiwan, and her husband’s eventual fall from favor and subsequent death, the First Lady of China retreated to spend the rest of her days quietly in New York.

Through interactive maps, historical pictures, and day-by-day reviews, relive Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s visit to Los Angeles like never before.

[1] Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s trip through the United States and Canada, San Francisco: Chinese Nationalist Daily, 1943.

[2] Laura Li, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek: China’s Eternal First Lady (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. 2006).