Banner: Image of Eleanor Roosevelt and Madame Chiang Kai-shek at Mount Vernon, Virginia, February 22, 1943. Photo from Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum collections. Text on image reads Eleanor Roosevelt’s High Expectations Regarding Madame Chiang Kai-shek. Authored by Tim Sheehan


Eleanor Roosevelt and Madame Chiang Kai-shek greatly influenced their husbands during World War II, a time when men still held a firm grasp on society. Eleanor Roosevelt had high expectations regarding Madame Chiang. What were the expectations? Why didn’t Madame Chiang meet these expectations? How was the relationship between these two remarkable women?

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Eleanor Roosevelt and Madame Chiang Kai-shek possessed a huge influence over their husbands during World War II, a time when men still held a firm grasp on society. The power each one possessed may have been the reason both gravitated towards each other. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s dependence on his wife greatly impressed ER. Madame Chiang Kai-shek would interpret American politics for him, would be present in meetings with top United States officials, and would help him draft personal messages to President Roosevelt.1 Eleanor Roosevelt also had considerable say on issues. Because of the influence both had, Madame Chiang could use her American counterpart as a means to obtain U.S. aid to China. ER could use her Chinese counterpart to push for equality and for humanitarian efforts in the U.S. and abroad. As can be expected from a relationship based on using others, both began to irritate each other during Madame Chiang’s 1942-1943 visit to the United States. Eleanor Roosevelt’s high expectations regarding Madame Chiang Kai-shek plummeted as both women became better acquainted with each other.

Eleanor Roosevelt grew up in a world of privilege. The Roosevelt family had been established in New York for generations, with the later generations accumulating great wealth. Yet privilege didn’t shield Eleanor from encountering hardships at an early age. Anna Eleanor Roosevelt came into the world on 11 October 1884. Her mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt, died from diphtheria when Eleanor was eight. Her father, Elliott Roosevelt, brother of President Theodore Roosevelt, suffered from alcoholism. Two years after her mother’s death, Eleanor’s father lost his life due to injuries from a drunken fall. Even before her parents’ deaths, Eleanor Roosevelt endured childhood as a shy, solemn girl lacking confidence. Her mother called her “Granny” because Anna Hall Roosevelt believed her daughter looked and acted like an old lady, an act that escalated ER’s inferiority complex. After her parents’ passing, she led a lonely and neglected life under her Grandmother Hall’s supervision. Her grandmother, however, made the wise decision to send Eleanor Roosevelt to Allenswood, a boarding school in England.2

The headmistress at Allenswood, Marie Souvestre, fought for unpopular causes and the underdog. Souvestre, however, never wanted her students to copy her beliefs and ideals. She challenged them to think for themselves. Eleanor Roosevelt absorbed Souvestre’s lessons. As a result, she became a more confident young woman determined to assist others.3

When Eleanor Roosevelt returned to New York at the age of eighteen, she at first led the debutante life, attending prestigious parties amongst New York’s elite. She tired quickly of New York society. Eleanor instead spent time teaching children at the Rivington Street Settlement, an organization providing civic improvement and education to an impoverished New York neighborhood. Her evolution into a socially-conscious intellectual woman attracted the attention of her distant cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.4

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt fell in love and married in 1905. She endured many hardships with the future President of the United States. His mother Sara held a firm grip on Franklin, which made life difficult for Eleanor. Franklin made things tougher for Eleanor by having extra-marital affairs. He also contracted polio in the early 1920’s, which led to lifetime paralysis. His wife stayed with him, handling all these significance hurdles.5

Eleanor Roosevelt’s loyalty to her husband during these crises proved to him that he could treat her as a partner in his political achievements. During FDR’s terms as Governor of New York (1929-1932) and President of the United States (1933-1945), people solicited ER for her husband’s support. If she liked their policy or idea, she’d champion it, making her a very influential person. FDR gave his wife the chance to focus on social issues, instead of household duties and the society circuit. This freedom allowed Eleanor Roosevelt to work for the poor and against inequality.6

Whereas the Roosevelts had been a wealthy and established family for generations at the time of Eleanor Roosevelt’s birth, Mayling (Meiling) Soong’s father, Charles Soong (1861-1918), led the rags-to-riches life. In the late 1870’s, he left China and went to the United States, where, as a cabin steward, he had the good fortune to meet the right people. He obtained, at no cost, a Vanderbilt University education due to an agreement to return to China as a Southern Methodist missionary. After returning to China in 1886, Soong became frustrated with his lack of advancement in the missionary hierarchy. He, instead, decided to focus on business. Soong prospered by publishing Bibles and importing manufacturing equipment. By 1898, the year of Mayling Soong’s birth, Soong had accumulated enough wealth to provide his family very well. With wealth came power, allowing Soong to act as the financer of the 1911 Chinese Revolution led by Sun Yat-sen.7

Possessing western ideals, Charles Soong and his wife treated their daughters and sons the same, providing all with an education. Mayling spent ten years in the United States, attending Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia for her secondary education. Upon her 1913 arrival at Wellesley College, located in Yankee New England, people were surprised by the southern accent she acquired from her five years down in Georgia. She studied English literature and philosophy at Wellesley and graduated in 1917 as a Durant Scholar, the highest academic honor awarded by the College. Mayling Soong returned to China very Americanized.8

Mayling stayed with her family in Shanghai after her return from America. She did charity work, some of which involved soliciting donations from very prominent Shanghai residents and businesses. She became the first Chinese and the first woman to hold a post on the Shanghai Municipal Council Child Labor Commission. Mayling had several romantic interests, some of whom were foreigners, but nothing led to a marriage. Mayling’s sister, Eling Kung, brokered a political deal that led, not only to the appointment of her husband H.H. Kung as prime minister and her brother T.V. Soong as a finance minister in the Nanking government, but, more importantly, led to the 1927 marriage of Mayling to Chiang Kai-shek, the dictator of Nationalists controlled China. 9

The marriage benefited both Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and Mayling, the new Madame Chiang Kai-shek.10 Because Chiang did not possess the art of conversation, Madame Chiang acted as the conversationalist, especially with English-speaking foreigners. Although Madame did participate in charity work and women’s rights issues as did Eleanor Roosevelt, Mayling had more official responsibilities than her counterpart in the United States. From 1929 to 1932, she served as an appointed member of Nanking’s government parliament. From 1936-1938, her husband had her run the government’s air force. Madame Chiang also led the New Life Movement in the 1930’s, an attempt to sway people away from Communism and promoted both Christianity and education. She became known as the one to see should something need to get done within the Nationalist government. Madame also became known for her finesse regarding public relations, especially in creating within the United States sympathy for the Nationalist government.11

Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek never completely controlled all of China. His Nationalist government, also known as the Kuomintang or Guomindang, controlled a small portion of China. The Chinese Communist Party, controlled by Mao Zedong with the assistance of the Soviet Union, greatly increased its control over northern sections of China beginning in the 1920’s and into the 1930’s. Japan controlled Manchuria and Formosa (now known as Taiwan). Seeking to expand its empire at the expense of a divided China, Japan began its brutal attack against China in 1937. 12

The media in the United States, fueled by Madame Chiang’s press releases, expressed sympathy for China. TIME magazine heralded the Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek as 1937’s “Man & Wife of the Year.” Henry Luce, the publisher of TIME, wanted to bring China’s plight against Japan to the attention of Americans. Luce’s parents were Presbyterian missionaries residing in China at the time of his birth. As a result, Luce possessed an attachment to China. His promotion of the Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek began their efforts to rouse the U.S. against Japan.13 Such efforts would be slow-going, since the U.S. did not declare war against Japan until 1941.

As a result of media exposure, dialogue between the U.S. and China increased that year. The relationship between the two First Ladies of China and the U.S. also began around this time. On 19 May 1937, Eleanor Roosevelt attended a ceremony at the State Department celebrating a new telephone connection with Shanghai, China, where Madame Chiang spoke at the other end of the line. In their first conversation together, both ER and Madame Chiang expressed their hopes that this communications link would bring a better understanding between the two cultures.14 Despite this optimism, it took a few years for them to meet face to face.

A motherly act by Madame Chiang won ER’s deep respect. In 1941, James Roosevelt, son of the President and First Lady, visited China at FDR’s request to observe their war efforts. Because James had ulcers, he needed a special diet. Lacking the necessary dietary ingredients, he became ill. Madame Chiang took care of the sickly James herself. She fed him the proper meals he needed, which brought him back to par. In her autobiography This I Remember, Eleanor Roosevelt states that one “can understand that from that time on Madame Chiang had a special place in my heart.” 15 She felt grateful for Madame’s efforts.

The two finally met in 1942. That year Madame Chiang came to the United States. Why did she have to cross the Pacific during World War II? Two reasons required Madame to make the trip. The Generalissimo’s wife suffered from various health ailments. She endured pains in her back and ribs inflicted from a 1937 Shanghai automobile accident. She also had hives, sinus issues, insomnia, and symptoms that her husband feared indicated stomach cancer. The major reason for the trip involved lobbying the United States for aid to China. Although China had just received a $500 million loan from the Roosevelt Administration, Chiang Kai-shek demanded more money and military supplies.16 Combining her mission to restore her health and to secure more aid might create enough sympathy that would encourage the U.S. to contribute money to China.

Eleanor Roosevelt not only knew the real reason for Madame’s trip, she encouraged it. In a letter to Madame Chiang, ER states a visit by Madame to the White House would not only create a “better appreciation of China’s problems,” but would also be good for the “ends of publicity.” ER didn’t just think about generating positive press for aiding China financially. She desired Madame’s support for her own projects. However, being sensitive to Madame’s weak health, ER allowed her to keep public and social activities to a limited few.17

FDR, on the other hand, showed less enthusiasm about Madame Chiang’s visit than displayed by his wife. Although the President wanted to appease Chiang Kai-shek in order to keep China in the war against Japan, FDR also faced pressures from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to allocate resources to defeat Germany.18 When he first heard reports in 1942 that Madame intended to visit the United States, the President confided to Joseph Stilwell, the U.S. commander of the China-Burma-India Theater, that her trip “would be too much like a lecture tour of women’s clubs.” Stilwell added, “He’s right on that.”19 Both men erred with their chauvinist opinion. Madame Chiang’s trip actually turned out to be a full-fledged lobbying effort aimed at the American public and Washington politicians.

Madame Chiang arrived in New York on 27 November 1942, receiving medical treatment at the Presbyterian Hospital. The Hospital gave her two weeks of anti-amebic therapy, surgery, and dental work. ER made a few trips to the Hospital, where she found Madame to be “highly nervous and to be suffering a great deal; she could hardly bear to have anything touch any part of her body.” ER found it unfortunate that doctors could not immediately relieve Madame’s pain.20

Eleanor Roosevelt, being so sensitive to anyone suffering from any type of pain, felt pity for Madame Chiang. Because Madame “seemed so small and delicate,” ER had a desire to “take care of her as I would have if she had been my own daughter.” She took others along with her, such as her daughter Anna. “I felt she would tire of seeing only me.”21

That statement is not completely true. Eleanor Roosevelt found Madame Chiang interesting and wanted to share her with others. Joseph P. Lash, a confidant of ER, states in his book Love Eleanor that the First Lady viewed Madame Chiang as a great symbol for all women to admire.22 Why did she feel this way? The United States media portrayed Madame Chiang as a “co-leader” with her husband, who reportedly deemed her “worth twenty divisions.”23 At this time in late 1942 through early 1943, ER believed Madame Chiang Kai-shek shared “so completely with her countrymen, that her husband not only considers her his partner, but the people consider her their representative.” 24 Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s relationship with her husband and the power Madame had as a result of her marriage greatly impressed Eleanor Roosevelt. She also believed that Madame had courage for living through a war fought on her soil.25 ER states the following in a letter to her daughter Anna: “I am growing very fond of her. She is a wonderful person.”26

Eleanor Roosevelt’s visits to Madame Chiang’s hospital bed may seem like they served her own purpose, but they also served the President. ER served as an intermediary between FDR and Madame Chiang. Madame told both ER and Harry Hopkins, FDR’s trusted advisor acting as another intermediary between FDR and Madame, that the lack of an invitation to the Casablanca Conference upset Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and herself. To appease the Generalissimo and his wife, President Roosevelt had ER inform Madame that he had an agreement with England’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill that would improve the airplane situation in China.27 This opportunity would be the first Madame Chiang Kai-shek had in pursuing her goals through Eleanor Roosevelt.

Madame Chiang played it quiet after ER provided her with this information. In order to break the silence, Roosevelt asked Madame if she heard from her husband about Casablanca. Madame, at first, refused to discuss the matter. Then, suddenly, she could not restrain her anger about Casablanca. She reportedly set off a verbal explosion, ranting about China being left out of war strategy. Madame Chiang gave ER her opinion that peace would be accomplished when equality between all nations occurred. The Generalissimo had promised China that they would be regarded by other nations as equals during and after the War.28

Madame Chiang’s outburst did not humiliate Eleanor Roosevelt. She understood Madame’s anger regarding inequality. She had seen the same anger among African Americans.29 Madame Chiang Kai-shek may have done her homework on America’s First Lady. Her outburst may have been planned to grab ER’s attention. If she had planned it to suit ER’s sympathies, then she succeeded.

Madame Chiang invited Eleanor Roosevelt to China. ER informed Harry Hopkins about the decision. She gave Hopkins her opinion that her visit, combined with a trip to Russia, would bring “more confidence” to both countries, and show “that as a people we want to understand them & their problem & work with them.” Hopkins suggested that she persuade the President to approve this trip.30

Madame Chiang Kai-shek arrived in Washington on 17 February 1943. That evening, she dined with the President, First Lady, Harry Hopkins, and his wife Louise. Before dinner, Eleanor Roosevelt advised Madame that FDR likes women to act as his audience, to listen, and not to dominate the conversation. Dinner went well that night, according to ER in a letter to Joseph Lash. “She is wise. She listened at dinner & in her half hour later with FDR she listened but she will talk & she had already asked FDR if I can go back [to China] with her!”31

The next day, Madame Chiang Kai-shek made one speech to a group of United States Senators and another before the House of Representatives. Madame dressed in a black Oriental dress that awed her audience. Her introduction received a grand standing ovation. Madame Chiang’s speech to US Representatives included praise for American troops, insisted that Japan’s “military might must be decimated,” and urged them to work for a closer relationship between the United States and China. In a calm, confident tone, Madame proclaimed to Congress that China did not “accept failure ignominiously,” but would “risk it gloriously.” To the Senators, she declared “that it is necessary for us not only to have ideals and to proclaim that we have them, it is necessary that we act to implement them.”32 Implementation to her meant aid to China.

Madame Chiang’s speech received excellent publicity in the 19 February 1943 papers, including a front page headline in the New York Times.33 Eleanor Roosevelt praised the speech, as evident in the following statement from her 19 February 1943 “My Day” column:

It marked the recognition of a woman who, through her own personality and her own service, has achieved a place in the world, not merely as the wife of the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek [sic], but as a representative of her people.

This column served as a means to not only push Madame’s cause, but to push Eleanor Roosevelt’s message that women can and will make great individual achievements when given the opportunity. Her motives are apparent in her claim that Madame should not be recognized just as a great woman, but as “a person, a great person, receiving the recognition due her as an individual who was valiantly fighting in the forefront of the world’s battle.”34 Eleanor Roosevelt’s depiction molded Madame Chiang Kai-shek into a symbol for all women, one that freed them from the “wife” label and other stereotypes.

On 19 February 1943, Madame Chiang and FDR held a joint press conference. One hundred and seventy two reporters covered this event, twenty three more than those present at the President’s personal report on Casablanca. Eleanor Roosevelt also joined her husband and Madame Chiang, sitting to the right of Madame with her left hand resting on the right arm of Madame’s chair. At one time during the press conference, both ladies exchanged between each other quick smile of understanding.35 Both women apparently had a plan for this event.

FDR initially had a firm grip of the press conference. For instance, a reporter asked Madame what the United States could do for China. Instead of answering herself, she allowed FDR to interpose with “I can answer that: with more munitions. We are all for it. That is unanimous.” Madame agreed and did not elaborate further.36

However, due in part to Madame’s quick wit and possible coaching by Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR found that his grip of the press conference loosened. For example, in responding to a question requesting her opinion regarding the U.S. Air Force’s activities in China, she praised them. Yet, she added she had an unanswered question on how China would get new planes and fuel. The following shows how she forced that question on the President: “[T]he President has solved so many difficult questions, he has come through so many great crises with flying colors, that I feel that I can safely leave that answer to him.” This response surely surprised the President. He recovered by providing a lengthy description of the difficulty involved to get supplies across the Pacific during a war.37

The biggest bombshell Madame Chiang Kai-shek dropped on the President involved her suggestions to expedite U.S. aid to China. “The President just said that ‘as fast as the Lord will let us.’ Well, I might add on to that, ‘The Lord helps those who help themselves.’”38 Everyone in the room laughed, except FDR. His face reddened after Madame’s remark. The President may not have been happy about these remarks, but he immediately sent more C-46 aircraft to China.39

The press savored the way Madame Chiang Kai-shek handled the President. The New York Times summed up the press conference best by reporting “[w]ith flashing charm, Mme. Chiang Kai-shek laid the burdens of China on the desk of the President.” 40 Ecstatic best describes Eleanor Roosevelt’s report about the press conference. Madame’s sharpness impressed ER. “I doubt if anything could happen within her range of vision which she would not see.”41 The press conference accomplished two things. Madame Chiang Kai-shek received the publicity she desired regarding aid to China, embarrassing the President to the point in which he personally ordered the delivery of more C-46 aircraft to China. Eleanor Roosevelt received the satisfaction of showing the public the ability of women to control a situation such as this press conference. Because this cost came at the expense of her husband, would there be payback?

On 19 February 1943, the same day of the press conference, Madame Chiang received the Chi Omega Award. This award is given annually to a woman who has made extraordinary strides in a male-dominated world. Coincidentally, Eleanor Roosevelt sat on the committee that picked the recipient.42 Yet ER felt that Madame deserved this Award as the following from her “My Day” column shows:

She is the first woman not of American birth to be given this award. However, her education was received in this country, and she knows it so well that the answer, “I Am a Southerner,” which she is said to have given some one the other day, seems to be really true.43

Once again, ER demonstrated to the public the great intellect Madame Chiang possessed, one that rivaled any male.

The First Lady held her own press conference with Madame Chiang Kai-shek on 24 February 1943. Eleanor Roosevelt controlled this event, comprised of female reporters. She defended Madame when reporters grilled the Generalissimo’s wife about meeting with the leaders of women’s organizations. ER claimed that because Madame is still recovering, she must “conserve her strength,” and “not see a great many people.” 44 Eleanor Roosevelt would only shield Madame Chiang for that one incident.

Throughout the remainder of the press conference, Eleanor Roosevelt held a firm grip on the topics discussed. During the middle of the press conference, Madame Chiang portrayed China’s poor as refusing charity. This depiction may have been Madame’s attempt to persuade the United States that the Chinese preferred money for munitions, not humanitarian relief. ER interrupted, asking Madame to tell the press about the spirit in China. Without allowing Madame to do so, ER continued with the following: “That they are not fighting for themselves alone but for a better world for everyone and that they worked with a determination which was missing where people lacked hope and vision.” After this rant, Madame Chiang responded, “You tell it better than I can.” 45

At one point in the press conference, Eleanor Roosevelt put Madame on the hot seat. ER asked Madame the following regarding American pilots assisting China with defeating the Japanese.

I think they were credited with less actual accomplishments than they had accomplished and more loss, and I wonder if you feel that they did actually accomplish or were supposed to accomplish 297 missions. Can you tell me if you feel, Mme. [C.] if they have acquitted themselves well with a minimum of loss?

Madame got herself out of this jam by proclaiming American pilots as the best in the world.46 This grilling on Eleanor Roosevelt’s part shows that she knew about the military situation in China. It could also have been payback on behalf of FDR.

In 1943, an equal rights amendment had been proposed for the United States. A reporter asked Madame Chiang about equal rights in China. Madame replied, “I feel strongly that since the men expect us to bear half of the responsibility it is up to them to give us equal privileges. I have never known brains to have any sex.” She continued by stating the following about women participating in peace conferences when the war ends:

I do not mean this as a dig, but statemen [sic] the world over so far have failed to keep peace[,] to maintain peace[.] [W]omen never have had a chance at peace conferences to see what they could do. Well, why not give women a chance[?]47

Her comments surely touched all the female reporters, as well as Eleanor Roosevelt.

Madame’s remarks about women at peace conferences would have been a great way to end the press conference. Not so to Eleanor Roosevelt. She stated, “No one has asked Mme. C. about her orphanages.”48 So Madame talked about how Chunking, China already had 30,000 children in its orphanages and couldn’t afford to house any more children. Madame Chiang coincidentally brought some pamphlets with her providing information about assisting this cause.49

Whereas it seems that Madame Chiang and Eleanor Roosevelt demonstrated teamwork at FDR’s press conference, they appear to be somewhat at odds with each other at ER’s press conference. ER did allow Madame to briefly discuss aid to China, the main purpose of her visit to the United States. Yet Madame seemed to be forced to talk about issues that ER deemed essential. Madame’s concern, at this time, involved rounding up as much money and munitions for China as she possibly could accumulate. She did not want to push Roosevelt’s humanitarian beliefs, even if it may have benefited the Chinese. ER did not seem too sensitive to Madame’s needs. She viewed Madame as one who should act as a leader for equal rights and for humanity; not solely for United States aid to China.

Eleanor Roosevelt only gave a one sentence opinion about her press conference with Madame. In her 26 February “My Day” column, she labeled it as “most successful,” but did not elaborate.50 Other reports about this press conference did not receive prominent headline coverage. The New York Times placed their report on page 8, which focused mostly on Madame’s request for arms and refusal of food for China’s poor. Events in the European theater made the front page headlines of that paper.51 Madame’s luster may have begun to dim in the eyes of Eleanor Roosevelt, and the American public at this time.

To historian Robert Dallek, Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s visit of 1942-1943 rivaled the admiration airplane pilot Charles Lindbergh received after his 1927 solo flight crossing the Atlantic.52 Everyone, including ER, had an initial admiration towards her; everyone except FDR. Eleanor Roosevelt once informed her daughter Anna that “Pa is a little afraid of Mme. Chiang.”53 ER held the opinion that men, especially FDR, feared Madame due to the following reasons:

[S]he could be a cool-headed statesman when she was fighting for something she deemed necessary to China and to her husband’s regime; the little velvet hand and the low, gentile voice disguised a determination that could be as hard as steel.54

Another example of Madame’s intimidation occurred when FDR asked her what she would do with John Lewis, a labor leader threatening a coal-miners’ strike. Eleanor Roosevelt remembered that Madame “never said a word, but the beautiful, small hand came up very quietly and slid across her throat - a most expressive gesture.”55 Such a gesture surely began Eleanor Roosevelt’s questioning of her initial beliefs about Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

Madame Chiang’s persistence irritated the President. Eleanor Roosevelt told Pearl Buck a story about the President’s desire to avoid Madame Chiang Kai-shek. One night during Madame’s White House visit, ER had an engagement she needed to attend sans Madame. When she told FDR that he and Madame would be dining alone that night, he firmly responded he’s retiring for the night. Eleanor Roosevelt felt the President had a tough time dealing with women who view themselves to be equal to him.56 She faulted the President for having a low tolerance towards strong-willed, determined women.

Yet Madame Chiang applied too much pressure for FDR to tolerate. She’d walk into the Oval study, where the President held his own private sanctuary. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt usually stayed away from the study because she hardly received an invitation from FDR to enter. When Madame Chiang came into the study, she talked to him well into the night. ER broke up these visits for her husband’s benefit.57 FDR had enough. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau reported to his staff that the President could not wait for the glorious day Madame Chiang leaves the United States.58

The Cigarette Incident displayed to others, besides the President, the type of agitation Madame Chiang employed in order to get her way. She ordered the chief usher of the White House to ask the Treasury Department to request the release from Customs a shipment being held at Pier 90 in New York City. This shipment contained a special brand of 1,000 English cigarettes. The calls persisted until the Treasury ordered an agent to send them from New York to the White House. They caved to Madame’s tactics. Secretary Morgenthau complained to Eleanor Roosevelt about Madame Chiang’s behavior.59

Many of the instances previously listed annoyed the President, White House staff, and others in the Administration more than the First Lady. Yet Eleanor Roosevelt had her own frustrations with Madame Chiang Kai-shek, which would dramatically alter her perceptions of someone she initially admired. To start, ER thought Madame’s visit to the White House would only be three days. It, instead, turned out to be twelve grueling days. Eleanor Roosevelt divulged to her daughter that “arranging for her is not easy.” 60

Madame’s insistence that her own special silk sheets must be changed several times a day supposedly irked Eleanor Roosevelt. Esther Van Wagner Tuffy, a journalist who covered the First Lady, claimed that Roosevelt joked about it “always with a smile meaning ‘isn’t this amusing, and unimportant, but amusing.’” To Tuffy, the joking about this situation mirrored the manner ER joked about Sara Roosevelt, her demanding mother-in-law.61 Because of this comparison to the President’s mother, Madame Chiang really must have gotten on ER’s nerves!

Even before Madame’s February 1943 arrival in Washington, she made demands that Eleanor Roosevelt found nearly impossible to achieve. Madame insisted that “as my doctors have advised me to avoid overstrain, I shall have to address the House and Senate jointly.”62 Congress never invited Madame to speak, let alone grant her the great honor of addressing a joint session of Congress! Amazingly, Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for Madame to make several speeches at Capitol Hill.63

To promote universal equality, Eleanor Roosevelt wanted Madame Chiang to meet with NAACP leader Walter White. To entice Madame, ER made the following suggestion: “If you decide that you can see Mr. White, I will be glad to join you, if you wish it.”64 Roosevelt replied to White that Madame would make public appearances only “under the auspices of some of her Chinese and American friends only.”65

Overall, Eleanor Roosevelt did pester Madame Chiang with many requests, even though she initially told Madame that she’d keep her schedule light. She wanted Madame to meet with journalists, such as Bruce Gould, editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal, and make speeches for organizations, such as the National League of Women Voter’s anti- isolationist campaign.66

Eleanor Roosevelt’s tolerance of constant rejection and arm twisting ended after she informed Madame that Maxeda von Hesse wanted to write a play about her. ER believed it would be a “great contribution to the cause of the future,” but did understand if Madame declined due to weariness.67 Madame Chiang had her secretary and nephew L.W. K’ung respond. “While my aunt finds the trip to the West Coast most delightful, she was constrained to take a rest before her departure for the East.”68 It appears that Madame Chiang began to tire of Eleanor Roosevelt’s constant requests.

After this response, Eleanor Roosevelt may have become bitter towards Madame Chiang. She informed the public through her “My Day” column about Madame’s weariness. In her rough draft of the 5 May 1943 column, ER added that, “people should require very little effort from her!” Note the exclamation mark.69 The column made available to the public dropped the exclamation mark.70 The draft may have served as a means for the author to vent her anger. She had provided Madame with her best efforts to obtain aid to China. Eleanor Roosevelt may have felt it proper for Madame Chiang Kai-shek to return the favor.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s staff fumed over their dealings with Madame Chiang. Malvina “Tommy” Thompson, an outspoken staffer, warned ER that Madame was not the Chinese version of Saint Teresa. To the amazement of her staff, ER continued to stick up for Madame. Joseph Lash held the opinion that Eleanor Roosevelt ignored all these annoyances for she desired to have Madame Chiang as an ally for equality. ER did not like to speak ill of others. Whenever someone criticized Madame Chiang or anyone else, ER would respond in a positive manner while smiling, leaving others to guess if she agreed.71 Yet it seems even she had doubts. “I like and trust her,” she wrote to her daughter Anna, “but perhaps I’m wrong.”72 Why did she feel this way?

Eleanor Roosevelt eventually came to the realization that Madame did not have a true sense of democracy, or a humanitarian spirit. This awakening may have started with Madame’s speech to the Senate. The following sentiments are expressed in ER’s This I Remember:

Theoretically she knew exactly what democracy should be. However, it was not so easy to understand how in practice she thought it should be lived in China, with its particular traditions and habits and customs.73

The reality of Madame Chiang’s true essence became clearer to Eleanor Roosevelt as Madame’s 1942-1943 tour through the United States continued.

Pearl Buck’s opinions about Madame Chiang Kai-shek made things crystal clear to Eleanor Roosevelt. Being very familiar with China and just returning from a trip there, Buck provided ER with her perception of the Chiang Kai-sheks during a February 1943 dinner conversation.74 Buck provided more details to Roosevelt in a 22 March 1943 letter. Buck made it clear that the Chinese had been very dissatisfied with Madame’s U.S. tour. The Chinese Buck encountered told her that Madame acted “like an Empress or a Queen and we Chinese do not want Empresses or Queens.” Buck held the opinion that the Chinese would be satisfied if she had acted “democratically.” Buck then criticized Madame’s family, the Soongs, for placing themselves above others. She informed Eleanor Roosevelt that the Soongs “must have safeguards on every hand and build up the distance, always great, between themselves and the people.”75

To Pearl Buck, Madame Chiang did not truly know her own country. Madame went to America too young (at the age of ten), and stayed too long (for nine years). Even after her return to China, Madame continued to remain out of touch, even though she was married to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The Chinese called her “the American college girl.” Madame did not even know the names of the leaders of a new humanist movement in China, Buck advised Roosevelt. According to Buck, the only people Madame knew in China were missionaries, using Madame Chiang to obtain powerful, influential positions.76

In order to truly get Eleanor Roosevelt’s attention, Buck stated that there “has not been any broad effort made [in China] for their welfare and relief.” Only a few orphanages and schools existed. In China, according to Buck, “people fend for themselves.” Things in China were not as community oriented as Madame made them out to be during her press conference with Eleanor Roosevelt. Madame’s “New Life Movement” failed miserably. Buck also reported about the Communists treating the Chinese better than the Nationalists, and predicted a Civil War in China between the two fractions (she was right). In Pearl Buck’s opinion, a trip to China would give Eleanor Roosevelt a sense of the real China, not Madame Chiang’s view of China.77 Pearl Buck not only provided Eleanor Roosevelt her opinions, she challenged the First Lady to witness conditions in China for herself.

Pearl Buck gave Eleanor Roosevelt an accurate account of China. Nationalist China under Chiang Kai-shek’s rule surely did not function as a government developing its economy or any democratic institutions. The Generalissimo preferred military expenditures over those for economic reform. Chiang Kai-shek also did nothing to combat corruption within his government. His in-laws, the Soongs increased their fortunes at the expense of the government. Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Chiang preached about developing a modern and democratic Chinese state, yet they did not practice what they preached. They preferred the power obtained through running a dictatorship.78

Pearl Buck’s letter altered Eleanor Roosevelt’s admiration of Madame Chiang Kai-shek. Feeling that her reformulated opinion about Madame Chiang should be shared with the public, Eleanor Roosevelt authored in March 1943 an article for Colliers. The topic: Madame Chiang Kai-shek. In this article, ER praises Madame for being very influential in China’s affairs and for living through a hostile wartime environment. She also professes her ignorance about China. Although ignorant about China, Roosevelt firmly states, in the article, that Madame doesn’t understand the definition of a democratic state.79 The Generalissimo’s wife, who constantly told Americans that China embraced democracy, must have been enraged by the article since she did not agree to have it published. As a result of her demands, the article never made it to the printing press.80

Eleanor Roosevelt finally realized that Madame Chiang did not meet her ideal of a democratic and humane leader. The following summarizes her feelings at this time:

I became very fond of Madame Chiang and I shall always think of her with warm affection, even though I realize that we are worlds apart in our conception of the duties and obligations of the individual in a democracy today, perhaps also in our conception of what the future organization of world should be when the equality of man is a primary aim.81

Eleanor Roosevelt had a better understanding about Madame Chiang by March 1943 than she did in mid-February 1943. Yet ER would do her best to change Madame’s opinions. Taking a trip to China, as suggested by Pearl Buck, could help make that change.

As noted earlier, Madame Chiang asked FDR to allow Eleanor Roosevelt to visit her in China. At first, FDR thought it to be a marvelous idea.82 Unfortunately for Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Hopkins, the President’s advisor, got in the way. During a meeting in Washington with Hopkins, Madame Chiang invited him to China, stating the Generalissimo wanted to meet him. Hopkins believed that his visit would serve no purpose if Eleanor Roosevelt also went to China. 83 Hopkins then issued a memo informing everyone that he would handle Mme. Chiang during any future visit by her to the United States. No one else, including Eleanor Roosevelt, had the authority to do so.84

Based on his actions, Hopkins obviously wanted to go to China and work closely with the Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek. It’s also possible Hopkins and the President wanted to manage things so that the wartime effort could focus more on Europe than Asia. Madame Chiang may also have preferred Hopkins over Eleanor Roosevelt, because ER made many demands on her schedule. President Roosevelt obviously supported Hopkins. This change in policy and the President’s support of this change hurt Eleanor Roosevelt.85

Franklin Roosevelt told his wife that her trip to China would not occur. Eleanor Roosevelt broke the news to Madame Chiang. “I talked to the President about getting out to you and he said just what he always says about so many other things - that I must not interfere with war plans.”86 FDR obviously spoiled numerous items on Eleanor Roosevelt’s agenda, including her China travel plans.

Plans for her China trip were shelved, but Eleanor Roosevelt hoped to meet Madame Chiang at the Cairo Conference set to take place in November 1943. Once again, FDR quashed her hopes by saying her attendance would be inappropriate. Trude Pratt informed her beau Joseph Lash that FDR said to ER no women were to be at Cairo. However, Madame Chiang attended the Cairo Conference, as did Sara Churchill, the British Prime Minister’s daughter.87

The President’s actions infuriated Eleanor Roosevelt. She felt left out. In her response to FDR’s 18 November 1943 letter from Cairo, ER reminded her husband that she would have liked to seen Madame Chiang more than he would have since he couldn’t tolerate the Generalissimo’s wife. ER found it ironic that news photos showed the President and Madame Chiang Kai-shek having a pleasant conversation.88 ER wrote the following to Madame Chiang: “I would so much have liked to be there too, but it was not possible.” She kept the reason to herself.89

Not too long after the Cairo Conference, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote an article titled “Women at the Peace Conference,” which Reader’s Digest published. ER probably penned this article as a means to open people’s minds, especially the President’s, to women being actively involved in postwar peace conferences. In the article, she gives a speech similar to the one Madame Chiang gave at their joint press conference held during Madame’s 1943 visit to the White House. Because men have failed in preserving peace, ER believed women should be given a chance, especially the ones married to world leaders. “Madame Chiang Kai-shek is never far away from her husband’s side.” The article concludes with ER expressing her hope that men and women work together in the local, state, and national levels. “Men and women will have to live in this new world together. They should begin now to build it together.”90

The article appears to be an outlet for Eleanor Roosevelt to persuade the President, since he had shut her out of attending the Cairo Conference. She wanted to reiterate to FDR that he should treat her like a partner in the same way Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek gave Madame Chiang opportunities to act as his partner. What would she do if given a chance to attend peace conferences? If FDR gave ER such opportunities, she probably would have used them to push her agenda for democracy and equality.

FDR knew that the First Lady would push such an agenda if given the platform to do so. The President and the Allies wanted to focus on winning the war. Preaching democratic values surely would have lost Joseph Stalin from cooperating with the United States and Great Britain. The President also came to the realization that Chiang Kai-shek would not create a democratic China, which he could accept. As long as a stable China existed, it could preserve a balance in the Pacific between Japan and Russia. FDR didn’t want to force democracy on Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek. He wanted all to focus on the war.91 Madame Chiang’s presence at Cairo related to the war effort. ER’s presence would only have upset the President’s focus.

Franklin Roosevelt held firm on his decision not to allow Eleanor Roosevelt to visit China. ER informed Madame that such a trip “does not seem imminent.” The President, explained ER, wants ER to instead visit troops in “this hemisphere.”92 Her visit to China never happened. FDR instead sent her to the Caribbean, a trip she describes in This I Remember as “not soul-stirring.”93

After 1943, much of the correspondence between Madame Chiang Kai-shek and Eleanor Roosevelt pertained mostly to their health and happenings. Because both still possessed influence, politics occasionally crept into their dialogue. For example, while praising American pilots serving in China, Madame Chiang dropped the following hint: “They are doing a magnificent piece of work against great handicaps for the new Japanese planes are superior to the P-40’s.”94 Madame surely expected ER to show the President this letter and send new planes to China.

Eleanor Roosevelt never gave up in her attempt to obtain Madame’s assistance in promoting racial equality. Madame Chiang returned to the United States in 1944. This trip involved recovering from nervous exhaustion. Her return to China in 1943 resulted in criticism of her lavish spending spree in her previous trip to the States. Rumors about an affair between Madame and Wendell Willkie, as well as those about the Generalissimo and other women, put a strain on Madame. So Madame’s purpose during this trip involved recharging her batteries.95 Knowing that Madame was in the US, ER asked that she meet Walter White, the head of the NAACP, before he made a trip to China.96 There’s no record of a response by Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

Eleanor Roosevelt also forwarded to Madame Chiang a $30.00 check from an Eleanor McNespy for Chinese war orphans.97 Why did ER act as the middle man for this transaction? This donation may have served as a means to remind Madame to care for those she rules.

President Franklin Roosevelt passed away 12 April 1945. Although Eleanor Roosevelt lost her position as First Lady, the President’s death liberated her from the restraints she endured as the President’s wife. She now could control her own agenda. Many urged her to run for political office.98 She instead championed human rights, poverty, and equality by means other than elected office.

President Truman made her a delegate to the first United Nations General Assembly meeting in London, as well as subsequent UN General Assemblies. Eleanor Roosevelt’s vision of women participating in peace conferences became reality. ER chaired the UN Committee on Human Rights, taking the lead in crafting the UN Declaration of Rights. To make ends meet, Roosevelt continued to write the syndicated column she started in 1936. She also published her autobiography. The former First Lady used television, a new medium at the time, as a means to reach out to people by hosting several shows over the years. All these outlets gave Eleanor Roosevelt a platform to push for issues and politicians supporting human rights.99

Eleanor Roosevelt used any opportunity to push her agenda upon others, including Madame Chiang Kai-shek. In December 1945, ER visited the Lovell General Hospital at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. In her response to a question, Roosevelt stated that Madame Chiang “can talk beautifully about democracy, but she does not know how to live democracy.”100 In her 7 December 1945 “My Day” column, Roosevelt provided a brief lesson on China that reads like the Pearl Buck letter she received in 1943.101 These actions appear to be Eleanor Roosevelt’s way of pressuring Madame to use her influence to push for democratic reforms in China. With the Japanese defeated, Chinese leaders could focus on recreating itself as a democracy. Feeling the need to provide an extra push, Eleanor Roosevelt sent Madame the book The Age of Jackson, a title by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. that examines the struggles democracy encountered during America’s Jacksonian era.102

After the war, Chiang Kai-shek continued to run the portion of China he controlled as a dictator. The Nationalists and the Communists would not work together, so they resumed the civil war that existed before Japan’s invasion of China. Due to Chiang Kai-shek’s harsh rule and disregard of the economy, more and more Chinese accepted the Communists as a better alternative to the Nationalists. Beginning in August 1945, Mao Zedong and the Communists rapidly began to take over sections of China, completing most of its conquest over Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist territory by the beginning of 1949. The Nationalists only controlled the island of Formosa, known today as Taiwan.103

In 1948-1949, Madame Chiang Kai-shek embarked on another tour to the United States in order to round up support for the Nationalists. Anti-communist Republicans, such as Richard Nixon, gave Madame Chiang their support. The United States, at this time, began to encounter the communist hysteria that would continue into the 1950’s. Madame Chiang and the so-called China Lobby would manipulate this trend to their advantage.104

The widow of Franklin Roosevelt, however, had no sympathy for the Chiang Kai-sheks. Eleanor Roosevelt provided Madame Chiang her two cents regarding the situation by stating that the Nationalists could not do any more to regain control. “The people of China seem to have made their decision and I doubt if Formosa can stand out against it.” She then gave Madame the following lecture: “I understand your feelings and they are courageous but sometimes the things that courage can lead one into that serve no real good and certainly there is very little that you can do in Formosa.”105 Eleanor Roosevelt attempted to persuade Madame Chiang that she and her husband were in a losing battle. Yet her disagreement with Madame Chiang over this matter did not dampen her personal concerns about Madame’s safety. With Madame safely in New York talking about going back to China, ER told Madame that she’d be “happier if your husband were to join you here.”106

On her 1953 trip to Asia, Eleanor Roosevelt intended to visit Madame Chiang Kai-shek in Taipei. She, however, could not make the trip to Taiwan. The following suggests that Eleanor Roosevelt may have been relieved that the visit could not be made:

I knew that if I saw her I would have to tell her I did not think her dream of regaining China was possible. I felt that Chiang Kai-shek had his chance and had not used the right methods to unify the country, and I did not believe that he any longer had any chance to do so.107

It seems Eleanor Roosevelt believed that Madame Chiang had the opportunity to influence her husband to alter China into a democratic nation. It’s also probable that ER feared Madame would argue back, just as she did at the Presbyterian Hospital in 1943, when ER informed her about the President’s plans for Casablanca.108

Despite their differences, the two continued to write to each other. They’d also see each other once a year in New York City or Hyde Park, New York. One time, Madame desired to see ER at a time when ER had a booked schedule. Roosevelt fulfilled Madame’s wishes by managing to find a few hours to spare.109

Once the Nationalists settled in Taiwan and made the island “The Republic of China,” Chiang Kai-shek depended more on his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, than his wife to run the government. Madame Chiang redirected her energies to painting. She, however, would make several trips to the United States in the fifties and sixties to drum up support for the Republic of China. Over time, the United States and the rest of the world, sought to begin relations with Communist China. President Richard Nixon gave Chiang Kai-shek a slap in the face when he met with Mao Zedong in 1972. Seeing his chances of returning to mainland China as its leader waning, Chiang Kai-shek’s health began to deteriorate in the early 1970’s. The Generalissimo died of a heart attack in 1975 at the age of 88. By the end of the 1970’s, the Communist government had been recognized by many nations as the legitimate government of China.110

In 1976, after her husband’s death, Madame Chiang Kai-shek returned to the United States, where she would spend a majority of her remaining years. Chiang Chin-kuo assumed the presidency of Taiwan. Unlike his father, Chin-kuo decided to implement democratic reforms in his government before his 1988 death, a deed his step-mother deplored. When talk of an independent Taiwan began to gather strength in the 1980’s and 1990’s, she spoke out against such notions by stating there is only one China. Mayling Chiang Kai-shek held to that belief for the rest of her life. She died 23 October 2003 in New York at the age of 103, quite a remarkable age for someone who endured many health aliments including ovarian and breast cancer. Madame Chiang outlived Eleanor Roosevelt, who passed away 7 November 1962, by over forty years.111

Before Mayling Chiang Kai-shek’s 1942-1943 visit to the U.S., Eleanor Roosevelt held her in high regard. She admired and envied the dependence Chiang Kai-shek had on Madame Chiang, which gave her great power. ER made her out to be a great symbol to other women to show that they also can achieve great accomplishments. Yet Roosevelt expected Madame to mirror her beliefs regarding equality, democracy, and humanity. Her realization that Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s views didn’t mirror her own greatly disappointed Eleanor Roosevelt.

Eleanor Roosevelt found herself at the short end of the stick during Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1942-1943 visit. Madame Chiang displayed reluctance and made outright refusals to assist ER with publicity of her pet projects. ER did pester Madame with petty projects such as the play Maxeda von Hesse wanted to write. Yet Madame demanded quite a lot from ER. Her insistence of speaking to a joint session of Congress and the Cigarette Incident burdened Eleanor Roosevelt. It does appear that Madame received far more from Eleanor Roosevelt than Eleanor Roosevelt received from Madame Chiang Kai-shek. As stated above, FDR immediately sent C-46 aircraft to China. The total number of air force and service troops in the China-Burma-India Theater increased 500% in 1943, thanks in part to Madame’s lobbying efforts.112

Eleanor Roosevelt did correct her ignorance about Madame Chiang Kai-shek and China, thanks due mostly to Pearl Buck. Her corrected view of Madame Chiang allowed her to play on a level field with someone who held the initial advantage by knowing more about Eleanor Roosevelt and the United States than ER know about her and China. ER still held high regard for Mayling Chiang, using her accomplishments as a symbol for herself and other women to emulate. Yet she also openly criticized Madame for her failure to truly embrace democratic ideals. Eleanor Roosevelt continued to express her views upon Madame for the remainder of their relationship. Yet despite her constant pressure, Madame Chiang did not accept ER’s values. Maybe the Chiang Kai-sheks would not have lost China if she and her husband created a more democratic and humanitarian government.

1. Hsi-sheng Ch’i, “Chiang Kai-shek and Franklin D. Roosevelt,” in Franklin D. Roosevelt and His Contemporaries (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), 133.

2. Joseph P. Lash, Eleanor & Franklin (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1971), xviii-44, 61, 75.

3. Lash, Eleanor & Franklin, 80, 86-87.

4. Lash, Eleanor & Franklin, 97, 103.

5. See Lash’s Eleanor & Franklin for more information about each situation.

6. Lash, Eleanor & Franklin, 182, 208-209, 277-280, 335-336.

7. Laura Tyson Li, Madame Chiang Kai-shek: China’s Eternal First Lady (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006), 1-24 (“Chapter Two: Revelation to Revolution” provides more information regarding Charles Soong’s life).

8. Li, 5-10, 25-41.

9. Li, 43-74. For more information about Chiang Kai-shek, see Jonathan Fenby, Chiang Kai-shek: China’s Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2004).

10. Before his marriage to Mayling Soong, Chiang Kai-shek previously had three wives. His legal separation from them is questionable. Li, 78.

11. Li, 87-144.

12. For a better understanding of Chinese history and China’s relations to other nations, see the following titles: Harry G. Gelber, The Dragon and the Foreign Devils: China and the World, 1100 B.C. to the Present (New York: Walker & Company: 2007); John King Fairbank, China: A New History (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992).

13. “Man & Wife of the Year,” TIME (3 January 1938): 12-16, Full text of article available to TIME Magazine subscribers at,9171,847922,00.html?iid=perma_share; Barbara W. Tuchman, Stilwell and the American Experience in China (New York: Macmillan, 1971), 187-188.

14. Ruby Black, Eleanor Roosevelt: A Biography (New York: Duell, Sloan, & Pearce, 1940), 275.

15. Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949), 284.

16. Robert Dallek, Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), 330; Fenby, 300, 393; Li, 141, 194; Tuchman, 311-314, 318-319, 324.

17. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 16 September 1942, Folder: Mme. Chiang Kai-shek, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

18. Tuchman, 238-240; Dallek, 330.

19. Joseph Warren Stilwell, The Stilwell Papers, ed. Theodore H. White (New York: W. Sloane Associates, [1948]), 36.

20. Li, 194; Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember, 282-283 (contains quote).

21. Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember, 283.

22. Joseph Lash was a good friend of ER’s. He married Trude Pratt, one of ER’s secretaries. Joseph P. Lash, Love Eleanor (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1982), 419.

23. F. Tillman Durdin, “‘Worth Twenty Divisions:’ That’s What Chiang Kai-shek Says about His Wife, Co-Leader in China’s Bitter Struggle for Survival,” New York Times Magazine (14 September 1941): 8, 22.

24. Rough Draft, Eleanor Roosevelt, “My Day,” 17 February 1943, Folder: “My Day” Column Drafts, 3 January - 28 February 1943, Speech & Article File; Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York; Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “My Day,” Lowell Sun, 18 February 1943, 17 (contains quote); Online copy of the original column is available at, courtesy of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project.

25. Lash, Eleanor & Franklin, 675.

26. At this time, ER’s daughter Anna is married to Joseph Boettiger of Seattle. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Anna Boettiger, 21 December 1942, Folder: Roosevelt, Eleanor, Correspondence File, Anna Roosevelt Halstead Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

27. The Casablanca Conference took place in January 1943. American and British military chiefs met to discuss war planning. Russian Premier Josef Stalin did not want to be pressured by Chiang Kai-shek to fight Japan. The European theater mattered more. As a result, China was not invited to participate at Casablanca. Stalin decided not to attend himself. Lash, Eleanor & Franklin, 676; Dallek, 368-369.

28. Lash, Eleanor & Franklin, 676.

29. Lash, Eleanor & Franklin, 676.

30. ER underlined “with” for emphasis. Low morale gripped China. ER felt her presence would show China that they were not fighting Japan alone. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Joseph Lash, 12 February 1943, Folder 13 (Correspondence with Eleanor Roosevelt), Speeches and Writings, Joseph P. Lash Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York; Lash, Eleanor & Franklin, 677.

31. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Joseph Lash, 17 February 1943, Folder 14 (Correspondence with Eleanor Roosevelt), Speeches and Writings, Joseph P. Lash Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

32. Nancy MacLennan, “China’s First Lady Charms Congress,” New York Times, 19 February 1943, 4; W.H. Lawrence, “Mme. Chiang Asks Defeat of Japan, and House Cheers,” New York Times, 19 February 1943, 1, 4; Mme. Chiang quoted from “Text of the Two Addresses Before Congress by Mme. Chiang Kai=shek [sic],” New York Times, 19 February 1943, p. 4; There’s a bit of irony in Madame Chiang’s “risk it gloriously” quote. The Chinese had been unwilling to launch a campaign in Burma. This information was unknown to the U.S. public. Chiang Kai-shek, according to Barbara Tuchman, apparently did not want “to risk it gloriously.” Tuchman, 350.

33. W.H. Lawrence, “Mme. Chiang Asks Defeat of Japan, and House Cheers,” New York Times, 19 February 1943, 1, 4; Li, 199-204, 500n.

34. Rough Draft, Eleanor Roosevelt, “My Day,” 18 February 1943, Folder: “My Day” Column Drafts, 3 January - 28 February 1943, Speech & Article File, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York; Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “My Day,” Lowell Sun, 19 February 1943, 14 (contains quote); Online copy of the original column is available at, courtesy of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project.

35. W.H. Lawrence, “President Tells Mme. Chiang More Arms will be Rushed,” New York Times, 20 February 1943, 1; Nancy MacLennan, “Mme. Chiang Poises as if for Flight,” New York Times, 20 February 1943, 3.

36. “The Eight Hundred and Eighty-first Press Conference - Joint Conference of the President and Mme. Chiang Kai-shek (Excerpts), 19 February 1943,” The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vol. 12, Samuel Rosenman, editor (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1950), 102.

37. “The Eight Hundred and Eighty-first Press Conference,” 103-105 (quote contained on p. 104).

38. “The Eight Hundred and Eighty-first Press Conference,” 106.

39. W.H. Lawrence, “President Tells Mme. Chiang More Arms will be Rushed,” New York Times, 20 February 1943, 1, 3; Tuchman, 352.

40. Nancy MacLennan, “Mme. Chiang Poises as if for Flight,” New York Times, 20 February 1943, 3.

41. Rough Draft, Eleanor Roosevelt, “My Day,” 19 February 1943, Folder: “My Day” Column Drafts, 3 January - 28 February 1943, Speech & Article File, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York; Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “My Day,” Lowell Sun, 20 February 1943, 7 (contains quote); Online copy of the original column is available at, courtesy of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project.

42. Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember, 286.

43. Rough Draft, Eleanor Roosevelt, “My Day,” 19 February 1943, Folder: “My Day” Column Drafts, 3 January - 28 February 1943, Speech & Article File, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York; Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “My Day,” Lowell Sun, 20 February 1943, 7 (contains quote as printed in The Sun); Online copy of the original column is available at, courtesy of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project.

44. Eleanor Roosevelt’s Press Conference with Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 24 February 1943, Speech & Article File (1943), Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

45. Eleanor Roosevelt’s Press Conference with Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

46. Eleanor Roosevelt’s Press Conference with Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

47. Eleanor Roosevelt’s Press Conference with Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

48. Eleanor Roosevelt’s Press Conference with Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

49. Eleanor Roosevelt’s Press Conference with Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

50. Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “My Day,” Lowell Sun, 26 February 1943, 8 (contains quote); Online copy of the original column is available at, courtesy of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project.

51. Winifred Mallon, “Mme. Chiang Asks Arms, Not Food; Says Ammunition is Great Need,” New York Times, 25 February 1943, 8; German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s retreat from Tunisia dominated The New York Times headlines for 25 February 1943. New York Times, 25 February 1943; The New York Times held the belief that Hitler must be defeated first, then the focus can be on Japan and the protection of China. “Lady from China,” New York Times, 19 February 1943, 18.

52. Dallek, 391; Barbara Tuchman makes the same observation in her book Stillwell and the American Experience in China. Tuchman, 349.

53. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Anna Boettiger, 20 February 1943, Folder: Roosevelt, Eleanor, Correspondence File, Anna Roosevelt Halstead Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

54. Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember, 283.

55. Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember, 284 (contains quote); Dallek, 388.

56. Theodore F. Harris in consultation with Pearl S. Buck, Pearl S. Buck: A Biography (New York: The John Day Company, [1969]), 292-293.

57. Lillian Rogers Parks with Frances Spantz Leighton, The Roosevelts: A Family in Turmoil (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1981), 96.

58. Dallek, 388; John Morton Blum, From the Morgenthau Diaries, Years of War, 1943-1945 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1967), 106.

59. Blum, 106.

60. Parks with Leighton, 98; Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Anna Boettiger, 21 February 1943, Folder: Roosevelt, Eleanor, Correspondence File, Anna Roosevelt Halstead Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

61. Maurine Beasley, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Media (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 158.

62. Letter, Madame Chiang Kai-shek to Eleanor Roosevelt, 14 February 1943, Folder: Chiang Kai-shek, Madame, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

63. Parks with Leighton, 97-98.

64. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 29 February 1943, Folder: Chiang Kai-shek, Madame, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

65. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Walter White, 22 February 1943, Folder: White, Walter, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

66. Letters, Eleanor Roosevelt to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 25 May 1943 and 26 January 1943, Folder: Chiang Kai-shek, Madame, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

67. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Madame Chiang, 20 March 1943, Folder: Chiang Kai-shek, Madame, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

68. Letter, L.W. K’ung to Eleanor Roosevelt, 10 April 1943, Folder: Chiang Kai-shek, Madame, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt; Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York

69. Rough Draft, Eleanor Roosevelt, “My Day,” 4 May 1943, Folder: “My Day” Column Drafts, May 1943, Speech & Article File, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

70. Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “My Day,” Lowell Sun, 5 May 1943, 8; Available online at, courtesy of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project.

71. Joseph P. Lash, Eleanor and Franklin, 676.

72. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Anna Boettiger, 28 February 1943, Folder: Roosevelt, Eleanor, Correspondence File, Anna Roosevelt Halstead Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

73. Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember, 283.

74. Theodore Harris with Pearl S. Buck, Pearl S. Buck, 292-293; Peter Conn, Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 271-272.

75. Letter, Pearl Buck to Eleanor Roosevelt, 22 March 1943, Folder: Buck, Pearl, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York; Reprint of this letter is available in Theodore F. Harris in consultation with Pearl S. Buck, Pearl S. Buck: A Biography. Volume Two: Her Philosophy as Expressed in Her Letters (New York: The John Day Company, [1971]), 320-329; All quotes are made from original letter.

76. Letter, Pearl Buck to Eleanor Roosevelt, 22 March 1943.

77. Letter, Pearl Buck to Eleanor Roosevelt, 22 March 1943.

78. Li, 93-113, 134-144.

79. Rough Draft, Eleanor Roosevelt, “Madame Chiang,” Colliers article folder, Speech and Article File 1943, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

80. Memorandum, [Malvina] Tommy [Thompson] to George T. Bye, 20 March 1943, “Madame Chiang” Colliers article folder, Speech and Article File 1943, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York; Although ER’s article was never published, Pearl Buck had her article “A Warning About China” published in the 10 May 1943 Life issue. Although the article criticizes the Chiang Kai-sheks, Henry Luce, the publisher of Life and Chiang Kai-shek supporter, allowed the article to be published. Conn, 272-273.

81. Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember, 287.

82. Joseph P. Lash, Eleanor and Franklin, 679.

83. Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1948), 706-707.

84. Joseph P. Lash, Love Eleanor, 443.

85. Joseph P. Lash, Love Eleanor, 443.

86. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 26 July 1943, Folder: Chiang Kai-shek, Madame, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

87. Joseph Lash, A World of Love, 93.

88. Joseph Lash, A World of Love, 96; For more information about China’s role at the Cairo Conference, see Chapter 16 “China’s Hour at Cairo” of Barbara Tuchman’s Stillwell and the American Experience in China.

89. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 3 January 1944, Folder: Chiang Kai-shek, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

90. Eleanor Roosevelt, “How About Women at the Peace Conference?” The Reader’s Digest, 44(264): 48-49; quoted from clipping in “How About Women at the Peace Conference?” folder, Speech and Article File (1944), Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

91. Dallek, 388-390.

92. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 3 January 1944, Folder: Chiang Kai-shek, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

93. Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember, 313.

94. Letter, Madame Chiang Kai-shek to Eleanor Roosevelt, 29 February 1944, Folder: Chiang Kai-shek, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

95. Fenby, 402, 422-423; Li, 249-254.

96. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 12 October 1944, Folder: Chiang Kai-shek, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

97. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 11 November 1944, Folder: Chiang Kai-shek, White House Correspondence 1933-1945, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

98. Joseph Lash, Eleanor: The Years Alone (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1972), 27-28.

99. For more information about Eleanor Roosevelt and her life after her White House years, see Lash, Eleanor: The Years Alone and Allida M. Black, Casting Her Own Shadow: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996).

100. “Mme. Chiang Chided by Mrs. Roosevelt,” New York Times, 5 December 1945, 2; Li, 269.

101. Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “My Day,” Lowell Sun, 7 December 1945, 15; Available online at, courtesy of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project.

102. Letter, Madame Chiang Kai-shek to Eleanor Roosevelt, 8 February 1947, Folder: Chiang Kai-shek, Post White House Papers 1945-52, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

103. Li, 264-310; Gelber, 323-330.

104. Li, 295-310, 373-377, 388-395.

105. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 9 January 1949, Folder: Chiang Kai-shek, Post White House Papers 1945-52, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

106. Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 9 January 1949.

107. Eleanor Roosevelt, The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1958), 343.

108. Lash, Eleanor & Franklin, 676.

109. Memorandum, Miss Garvey to Eleanor Roosevelt, 1 December 1958, Folder: Cherkassky-Chiesa, Post White House Papers 1957-1962, Papers of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

110. Li, 339, 345, 373-377, 388-395, 410, 412, 414-418, 425.

111. Li, 427-460.

112. Tuchman 352, 387. China continued to make more demands for military supplies and loans, but the FDR Administration began to question the worthiness of such demands. Tuchman 410-414; Blum 107, 118-119.