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.