Women Leaders and Transformation in Developing Countries
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Soong Ching-Ling (1893-1981)
(Madame Sun Yat-Sen)

Honorary President of the People's Republic of China
Leader of the Women's Department of the Kuomintang

China Flag of China

Soong Ching-Ling was born in Shanghai on the 27th of January in 1893 to well-educated, Christian parents. Before marrying Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Ching-ling travelled to the United States for her education; she and her three sisters became the first Chinese girls to be educated in the states. At the age of eighteen, Ching-ling began to speak out against the conditions of women in her country in a non-violent manner which expressed her ideals of Liberty and Equality. For the next seven decades, Soong Ching-ling became an active character within both the political and social arenas of Chinese culture. She came to be known as "the Mother of China" by both the main political parties, the Kuomintang and the Communists.

  A Brief Timeline of the Life of Soong Ching-Ling
1893 Born.
1915 Marries Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the first Chinese Republic. Together they struggle to bring social and economic order to the chaos of post-Imperial China.
1924 Elected head of the Women's Department of the Kuomintang.
1925 Dr. Sun Yat-sen dies. Soong Ching-Ling devotes the rest of her life to upholding her husband's ideals by becoming the most passionate and prominent opponent of Chiang Kai-shek.
1932 Founds the China League for Civil Rights.
1938 Founds China Defence League.
1949 Offered the leadership position of the Kuomintang, which she turns down.
Becomes the Vice-President of the Central People's Government Council as well as the Honorary President of the All-China Women's Federation.
1950 Creates the China Welfare Institute.
1952 Founds China Reconstructs magazine.
1957 Travels to Moscow with Chairman Mao for the Conference of World Communist Parties.
1981 Named Honorary President of the People's Republic of China.
Dies of Leukaemia in Peking.

Soong Ching-Ling as an early champion of Chinese Women's Liberation

When Soong Ching-Ling was a student in the United States she began to seriously consider the conditions of women in China. The first and foremost Chinese practice that she singled out was the issue of arranged marriages. Through the influences of Western emancipation, Ching-Ling tackled this institution by declaring that the abolition of arranged marriages would further the liberation of both women and men in China.

When she married Sun Yat-sen in 1915 she not only became his wife but a strong political collegue of his. Up until that time women were basically invisible in the eyes of society. Few women would show their faces in public and would rarely accompany their husbands to any social gathering. In a biography of Soong Ching-Ling, Jung Chang writes that Ching-Ling was the first Chinese woman to appear in public with her husband and that she became the first consort of a political leader anywhere in the world to act as "First Lady."

Politically, Ching-Ling was a leading force behind the reorganization of the Kuomintang as well as in the shift away from the western powers towards Russia. Then in 1924 she was made head of the Womens' Department of the Party. She viewed that Chinese Women's Liberation was an inseparable part of the Chinese revolution-her views therefore set the tone for the radical line on the question of women in China.

Early in her career she divided her time between working in the government and working on the affairs of women. One of her major achievements during this time was the founding of the Women's Political Training School in 1927 - here she gave numerous talks on the importance of women joining the revolution as well as on the liberation of women in China. In the 1950s and 1960s she was very active in the official women's movement. Her ideals, along with the creation of the All-China Women's Federation in 1949 helped to shape the policies of China pertaining to women.


  • Jung Chang, Mme. Sun Yat-sen. Penguin Books, 1986.

Map of China
Click on map to see full size version.
Click on inset for clickable world map.

Statistical Highlights
Total Population (millions) - 1994 1,198.5
Gender balance (M%/F%) - 1994 51.6/48.4
Crude Birth Rate - Per 1000 pop - 1994 11.7
Ethnic Groups - 1994 56
G.D.P. (trillion yuan) - 1998 7.9748
G.D.P growth rate - 1998 7.8%
Avg. per capita income for urban residents (yuan) - 1998 5,454
Avg. per capita income for rural residents (yuan) - 1998 2,150

Gender Equity Information
Women per 100 Men 95
Full Suffrage for All Adult Women Obtained in (year) 1949
Percentage of legislature consisting of women 21%
Percentage of cabinet consisting of women 8%
Literacy Rate (F/M) 68% / 87%
Life Expectancy at Birth (F/M, in years) 69.2 / 67.1

Development Information Score
(of 1.000)
(HDI of 174)
(GDI of 163)
HDI 0.650 106
GDI 0.641 93

Hear the Chinese National Anthem, from National Anthems of the World
Flag graphic by Antonio Martins, courtesy of FOTW: Flags Of The World website <http://fotw.digibel.be/flags/> 6/25/99
   (Click on flag for full size version)
Map courtesy of theUniversity of Texas' Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection <http://www.lib.utexas.edu/Libs/PCL/Map_collection/Map_collection.html> 6/25/99
Statistical Information provided by the Chinese Embassy to the United States of America. Population statistics from "About China" <http://www.china-embassy.org/China/china.htm> Economic statistics from "China's Economy Grew 7.8% in 1998" 1/1/99 <http://www.china-embassy.org/Cgi-Bin/Press.pl?1998growth> 6/26/99
Gender Equity Information provided by Neft, Naomi and Levine, Ann D. Where Women Stand: An International Report on the Status of Women in 140 Countries 1997-1998. NewYork: Random House, 1997.
Development infromation provided by the United Nations Human Development Report 1998 <http://www.undp.org/hdro/98.htm> 6/25/99
   HDI = Human Development Index; GDI = Gender-related Development Index; Click on an index name in the table to view the full chart for that index

Biographical profile ©1999 Lindsay Snyder '99. Compilation of country information by Michael Cohen '01. Site as a whole is ©1999 Dessima Williams and CIMTech at Brandeis University. All rights reserved. Further copywright and contact information available at the site index.