The passing of Soong Mei-ling is something that cannot go unmentioned this past week in Taiwan. Known to most as Madame Chiang Kai-shek, one local joked that it would have been more appropriate for the generalissimo himself to be known as Mr Soong Mei-ling. Die-hard, old-guard Kuomintang supporters would probably not be impressed by the light-hearted reference to Soong's power and influence. She was a woman whose life touched three centuries, and whose words touched the American people. Obituaries have been plentiful in Taiwan and elsewhere around the world, but somewhat muted on the mainland. This is not surprising of course, as Soong was the arch-enemy of the Communist Party and the People's Republic itself. But what was she to the Taiwanese people? It is a tricky question. She was a mainlander, one who had little connection to, or influence on, modern Taiwan. Indeed, she had been absent from the island for more than 25 years. In an interview last year, Taiwan's First Lady Wu Shu-chen was very short on praise for Soong. 'I heard her English was better than her Chinese,' she said. Both Ms Wu and President Chen Shui-bian speak little English. Noting a comparison between herself and Soong, Ms Wu pointed out that one was the wife of a dictator, the other the wife of a democratically elected leader. While debate continues to rage about Soong's role and influence on modern Taiwan, the Taiwan of the post-Martial Law era, it has also been pointed out that she was ahead of her time. The first Chinese feminist is one label many have ascribed to her, mostly women. The wife of a dictator perhaps, but to some there is no doubt she was not playing second fiddle to her husband. A relationship between two powerful, strong-willed people is how most remember the Soong-Chiang coupling. It is a model many young women in Taiwan today would like to emulate. So, as the obituaries roll in and the state funeral is planned, those women born in the post-Chiang era look to a role model from a bygone era.