Born in 1904, Deng Yingchao was the wife of Zhou Enlai (1898-1976), the first premier of the People’s Republic of China. The couple met during the May 4th Movement, where Deng served as a team leader.
Growing up in an impoverished family in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Deng lost her father at an early age and was raised by her mother. The family moved to Tianjin in 1910. Later, she studied at Zhili No. 1 Women’s Normal School. Proving herself a talented revolutionary leader in women’s liberation, she organized various societies, such as the Women’s Rights League and the Women Star Society, while working as a primary school teacher in Tianjin and Beijing. She also promoted the abolition of foot binding for women, an old tradition in feudalist China.
In 1925, she joined the Communist Party of China and married Zhou in Tianjin. Both orthodox Marxists, the couple experienced one of China’s most turbulent times, in which the country was blighted by poverty and wars. They joined the Long March, fought in the Anti-Japanese Aggression War (1937-1945) and struggled for the founding of the PRC. Deng worked for women and children after the founding of the PRC. In 1990, she resigned as the honorary president of the Chinese nursing association. In 1992, Deng died of illness.
Although Deng and Zhou had no children of their own, they adopted several orphans from the “revolutionary martyrs.”