Why the most radical feminists were also communists
Through a series of lively and accessible biographical essays, Red Valkyries explores the history of socialist feminism century Eastern Europe. By examining the revolutionary careers of five prominent socialist women active in the 19th and 20th centuries–the aristocratic Bolshevik, Alexandra Kollontai; the radical pedagogue, Nadezhda Krupskaya; the polyamorous firebrand, Inessa Armand; the deadly sniper, Lyudmila Pavlichenko; and the partisan turned scientist turned global women’s activist, Elena Lagadinova–Kristen Ghodsee tells the story of the personal challenges faced by earlier generations of socialist and communist women. None of these women were "perfect" leftists. Their lives were filled with inner conflicts, contradictions, and sometimes outrageous privilege, but they still managed to move forward their own political projects through perseverance and dedication to their cause. Always walking a fine line between the need for class solidarity and the desire to force their sometimes callous male colleagues to take women’s issues seriously, these five women pursued novel solutions with lessons for activists of today. In brief conversational chapters–with plenty of concrete examples from the history of the state socialist countries in Eastern Europe and contemporary reflections on the status of women in the world today–Ghodsee renders the big ideas of socialist feminism accessible to those newly inspired by the emancipatory politics of insurgent left feminist movements around the globe.