Song Meiling (1897-2003) is not an easy historical subject. She was dispassionate, opinionated, and eternally public. She could be coldly pious and was relentless in proclaiming her dedication to the Chinese nation above anything else. She was crucial to her husband Chiang Kai-shek’s rule, yet historians have written sparingly about her, finding the study of her distasteful and uninspiring. In this, she is not unlike other prominent women in modern Chinese history, in that scholars have deemed her of undoubtable historical importance but little critical interest. This paper takes seriously Song Meiling’s claims of power, examining in particular the role that the public persona she constructed as national mother and the elite female network-building she engaged in played in consolidating her power and broadening the late Republican female public sphere. These efforts, which Song savvily built on the elite female networks that emerged from the Northern Expedition, were not incidental to the legitimacy of the Nationalist government but rather a strong signal of 1930s and 1940s Chinese nation-building. In Song Meiling we see the embodiment of two threads that are critical to the narrative of Nationalist rule. First, the effort to knit a country that had broken down into regional rule back into a single political entity; and, second, the firm emergence of women into public life. Song Meiling did not initiate either change but she entwined the two trends, arguing that political women (granted, of a very certain sort) were a political necessity in a unified China.