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The Crack Magazine

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Red Queens

Kristen Ghodsee’s ‘Red Valkyries: Feminist Lessons From Five Revolutionary Women’ is a new book that argues the most radical feminists were also communists.

The folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote a song for her. Charlie Chaplin knelt before her. She was befriended by Eleanor Roosevelt. She was Lyudmila Pavlichenko and her fame was largely down to her exploits as a sniper during World War Two where she killed 309 Nazis. Feted by the west, she, nevertheless, remained true to her left-wing roots. (When a US reporter informed her that Philip Morris were offering her half a million dollars to promote their cigarettes, she replied: “They can go to the devil.”) Pavlichenko is just one of five women that Kristen Ghodsee writes about in this illuminating new book, which shines a light on those who advanced feminism through a leftist lens. Others included the likes of Alexandra Kollontai (the first woman in history to become an official member of a governing cabinet) and Elena Lagadinova (the scientist turned global women’s activist). It’s a fascinating study, largely unburdened by jargon, and can be read as a corrective to today’s liberal western #girlboss feminism, which merely aims to secure women a bigger slice of an already rotten pie. RM

Red Valkyries is published by Verso on 12 July.

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