Anna Chan Chennault (Chen Xiangmei 陳香梅) was born in Beijing. Her early interest in world affairs and Chinese literature was shaped by her maternal grandfather, the diplomat Liao Entao廖恩燾 (aka Liao Fengshu鳳舒).
A graduate of Lingnan University, she worked as a wartime correspondent for the Central News Agency and first met her future husband General Claire Lee Chennault (陳納德) when assigned to interview him.
Her book A Thousand Springs (一千個春天) describes their happy marriage. After the famed leader of the Flying Tigers died in 1958, she moved with their two daughters from Monroe, Louisiana to Washington DC.
She was an influential political figure for many decades. She worked under President John F. Kennedy to help resettle Chinese refugees fleeing the Cultural Revolution. She was a major fund-raiser during Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign, and reportedly acted as a secret envoy for him to South Vietnam. A longtime supporter of the Nationalist government of Taiwan, she nonetheless returned to China in 1981 at the request of Ronald Reagan.
Deng Xiaoping remarked at their meeting, “There are 100 members of the US Senate but only one Anna Chennault.” Appointed Vice Chairman of the President’s Export Council, she led multiple trade missions to Asia during 1981–1985. Her personal connections with Asian leaders made her an asset for establishing business as well as political relationships. During this period, she advised not only on matters of US-China trade but also on promoting the emerging trade between China and Taiwan. In 1989, she led the first large delegation of Taiwanese businessmen to China for the purpose of exploring investment opportunities. Questioned about her changed attitude toward the PRC, she explained that people “must be humble enough to learn, courageous enough to change their positions.” She also described herself as a bridge between the U.S., China, and Taiwan.
Among other presidential appointments, she was a member of the White House Commission of Presidential Scholars (1985–1993), the Co-Chairman of the National Heritage Groups Council under Gerald Ford, and the International Chairman of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Commission under Bill Clinton.
Anna Chennault’s career as a businesswoman included the position of Vice-President of Flying Tiger Line, a cargo airlines founded by a former pilot of her late husband. As a contract negotiator for landing rights, she oversaw the airlines’ international expansion throughout Southeast Asia. She worked also as a consultant for companies that included Pan American Airlines, General Electric, Northrup Grumman, and Fleishman Hillard.
Founder of the Organization of Chinese-Americans (OCA) in 1973, Anna Chennault encouraged Asian-Americans to become pro-active citizens in their communities and to run for political office. She traveled across the US to speak at meetings of Asian and Chinese-American organizations, and was an active or honorary officer of many—among them, the Organization of Chinese-American Women, and the non-profit organization Joy Luck Club. She also befriended and informally advised many elected officials of Asian heritage.
Anna Chennault continued her initial profession of journalism until the last decade of her life, writing essays and opinion pieces for Chinese-language newspapers and magazines. She authored dozens of books. Among those in English, A Thousand Springs and Chennault and the Flying Tigers were both on the “New York Times” bestseller list. The “Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America” (Radcliffe College) holds her collected papers in English. Those in Chinese were donated to Zhejiang University Library in Hangzhou, China.
The “Live Auction” on July 23 is for the benefit of the Council for International Cooperation (國際合作委員會), a non-profit and non-political foundation that Anna Chennault established in 1989 for the purpose of fostering cross-cultural understanding, particularly among the peoples of the US, China, and Taiwan. By agreement of CIC’s board of directors, proceeds will be donated to schools in the DC metropolitan area that offer programs in Chinese language and culture. The objects in this auction were selected from Anna Chennault’s office and her Watergate penthouse, where she received numerous dignitaries and gave newsworthy parties. Some items were originally presented to her during her travels to promote international trade.
陈香梅出生于北京。她的外祖父, 外交家廖恩焘（也叫廖凤舒）, 塑造了她对世界事务和中国文学的早期兴趣。她毕业于岭南大学，曾担任中央新闻社的战时通讯员，并在接受采访时首次遇到了她未来的丈夫陈纳德将军。她的书《A Thousand Springs 》（一千个春天）描述了他们的幸福婚姻生活。 1958年，著名的飞虎队领袖去世后，她带着两个女儿从路易斯安那州门罗搬到美国首都华盛顿。
她几十年来都是很有影响力的政治人物。 她曾在肯尼迪 (John F. Kennedy) 的领导下工作，帮助那些在中国文化大革命中逃离的避难者。在理查德·尼克松（Richard Nixon）总统竞选期间，她曾是一个主要筹款人，据报道，她是他前往越南南部的秘密特使。她曾经是台湾国民党政府的长期支持者，但在1981年，应罗纳德.里根(Ronald Reagan)的要求，她回到中国。邓小平在会议上说：“美国参议院有100位成员，但只有一个陈香梅。” 她曾被任命为总统出口理事会副主席，在1981-1985年期间率领多个贸易代表团前往亚洲。她与亚洲领导人的私人关系使她成为建立业务和政治关系的资产。在此期间，她不仅为美中贸易问题，还为促进中国与台湾的新兴贸易提供咨询。1989年，她率领首批台湾商人去中国，以探索投资机会。当被问及她对中国的态度转变时，她解释说， “人必须谦虚学习，勇于改变立场。” 她还称她是美国，中国和台湾的桥梁。在其他总统任命中, 她曾担任白宫总统学者委员会委员(1985-1993年），在杰拉德·福特 (Gerald Ford) 政府担任中国遗产小组委员会联席主席, 在比尔·克林顿 (Bill Clinton)在任时担任弗兰克林·罗斯福纪念委员会下属的国际主席。
陈香梅在商业上的生涯包括担任飞虎线的副总裁的职位。飞虎线是一家由她已故丈夫的前飞行员创立的货运航空公司。她作为陆权合同的谈判者，监督了航空公司的整个东南亚的国际扩张。她还曾为泛美航空(Pan American Airlines)，通用电器(General Electric)，诺斯拉普·格鲁曼 (Northrup Grumman)和弗莱什曼·希拉德(Fleishman Hillard)等公司担任顾问。
陈香梅于1973年成立了华裔美国人组织（OCA），鼓励亚裔美人成为其所在社区的积极公民并竞选政治职务。她游历美国，在亚洲和华裔美国人组织的会议上发表演讲，并且在许多组织担任活跃成员或者名誉官员, 其中包括华裔美国妇女组织(The Organization of Chinese-American Women)和非营利组织喜福会 (Joy Luck Club)。她还结识了许多民选亚洲传统官员，并为他们提供了非正式的建议。
直到生命的最后十年, 陈香梅一直从事新闻事业, 为中文报纸和杂志撰写论文和评论文章。她写了几十部书。她的英文版本书，“A Thousand Springs” 和 “Chennault and the Flying Tiger” 都在“纽约时报”的畅销书榜上。拉德克利夫学院的美国女姓历史史莱辛格图书馆收藏了她的英文收集。她的中文收集被捐赠给了中国抗州浙江大学图书馆。