IN the many years that Jennie Chen Chieh-ju's memoirs were missing, an unlikely woman came to learn of her secret past and was determined that she would help to fulfil Jennie's wishes that the truth be known. Ginny Connor, a secretary in New York City took extensive notes from the memoirs in 1971 and still possesses correspondence between Jennie and James Lee and his brother William Yinson Lee. The former wrote the English transcript; the latter acted as her representative trying to find a publisher in the United States. ''I have always wanted to honour Jennie. It was a terrible thing they did to her,'' she said from her home in South Carolina this week. Ms Connor was so scared of the consequences of having the papers that she has changed her name for her dealings with the memoirs. She also deposited copies of her notes and the letters in several university libraries in the hope that they would be of interest to historians. Now Chiang's Secret Past has been published she plans to write her own book about Jennie Chen and the mystery of her memoirs with the help of a Chinese scholar. She said that Professor Eastman had authenticated her book as he was first and foremost an historian. After Kuomintang agents had completed negotiations with Jennie she was supposed to have relinquished all copies to them as well as her diaries. But at least one remained out of their hands. After the death of William Lee, it appears one copy of the manuscript remained at his lodgings. It then fell into the hands of his landlady, Muriel Dexter. In 1971, Ms Dexter sought the help of Vincent Rouba, a friend of Ms Connor. ''Ms Dexter asked him to try to get the book published. He said the manuscript was far too dangerous and valuable to take round to publishers so he wanted me to make notes,'' Ms Connor said. The original manuscript for the memoirs was in two volumes and Ms Connor took notes from both. ''I had typed up the first half, which he took back to Ms Dexter, along with the manuscript. I told him I would have finished the rest by the end of the week. When he did not return I called. His brother told me he had died, so I just put the notes away.'' (Mr Rouba did not die in suspicious circumstances, according to Professor Eastman's notes in Chiang's Secret Past.) ''It is amazing how I had all that material for all those years. I would not release it to a tabloid. I wanted the story told in a history book, '' Ms Connor said. ''I have always felt like a friend to Jennie, that for all the years I clung to it, I was doing something for her. I am thrilled Professor Eastman got it into print before he died. He used to say: 'Ginnie, I will finish this before I go.' ''I think of her as a lovely innocent young girl and I think that Chiang loved her when he sent her to the States. But he was such an ambitious man. Giving up his wife was just one more price he had to pay. I don't think he ever loved Soong Mei-ling.'' No one knows how a copy of the memoir came to be deposited in the Hoover Institute where it was found uncatalogued within the papers of deceased Nationalist official and diplomat Chang Hsin-hai. George Chan, Jennie's grandson, suspects that it had been her wish. ''The decision was made by my grandmother. She understood politics. There was no place the memoirs could be safe except in a university library in the United States,'' he said. In the early 80s, her grandsons, George and James Chan, who moved from Shanghai to Hong Kong in the 70s, heard of the existence of the memoir and considered finding and publishing it. They were put off when Taiwanese agents murdered the author Chiang Nan, who had written a biography critical of Chiang Ching-kuo, Chiang Kai-shek's son and successor. Mr Chan said: ''The situation in Taiwan has changed entirely. Now is the time to publish this book.'' But Madam Chiang Soong Mei-ling, now in her 90s, is still living in the United States. ''The only person who is angry is Soong Mei-ling,'' Mr Chan said. ''When she had power she tried all the things she could to stop publication of this memoir. But she has failed.'' Ms Connor believes that Ms Dexter continued to hold the original manuscript, though the whereabouts of Ms Dexter and whether she is still alive is not known. The memoirs have already been translated into Chinese and published in Taiwan. Ms Connor said that the research student who discovered the memoir in the Hoover Institute had copied it word for word and sent it to Taiwan.