Writing Red: An Anthology of American Women Writers, 1930-1940

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    Charlotte Nekola, Paula Rabinowitz

    Publisher: Haymarket Books

    Year: 2022

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 368 pages

    ISBN: 9781642595833

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This comprehensive collection of fiction, poetry, and reportage by revolutionary women of the 1930s lays to rest the charge that feminism disappeared after 1920. Among the thirty-six writers are Muriel Rukeyser, Margaret Walker, Josephine Herbst, Tillie Olsen, Tess Slesinger, Agnes Smedley, and Meridel Le Sueur. Other voices may be new to readers, including many working-class Black and white women. Topics covered range from sexuality and family relationships, to race, class, and patriarchy, to party politics. Toni Morrison writes that the anthology is “peopled with questioning, caring, socially committed women writers.”

Table of Contents

Foreword Toni Morrison xiii

Preface to the 2022 Edition xv

Preface xvii

Women and U.S. Literary Radicalism Paula Rabinowitz 1

Part I Fiction 17

Writing Red: Women's Short Fiction of the 1930s Paula Rabinowitz 19

Agnes Smedley

Shan-fei, Communist 30

Meridel Le Sueur

Sequel to Love 36

Ruth McKenney

From Industrial Valley 39

Leane Zugsmith

Room in the World 46

Edith Manuel Durham

Deepening Dusk 52

Lucille Boehm

Two-Bit Piece 67

Marita Bonner

The Whipping 70

Ramona Lowe

The Woman in the Window 79

Elizabeth Thomas

Our House 84

Eleanor Clark

Hurry, Hurry 89

Josephine Herbst

The Enemy 96

Tess Slesinger

The Mouse-Trap 106

Part II Poetry 125

Worlds Moving: Women, Poetry, and the Literary Politics of the 1930s Charlotte Nekola 127

Muriel Rukeyser

Ann Burlak 135

Absalom 139

More of a Corpse Than a Woman 142

Fifth Elegy: A Turning Wind 143

Genevieve Taggard

Try Tropic 147

Return of the Native 148

To My Mother 149

Silence in Mallorca 150

Proud Day 152

Autumn Song for Guitar 153

Creative Effort 154

Ode in Time of Crisis 155

Josephine W. Johnson

Under the Sound of Voices 157

He Who Shall Turn- 158

Ice Winter 159

Margaret Walker

For My People 161

Dark Blood 163

Lineage 164

Gladys Casely Hayford

The Palm Wine Seller 165

Kathleen Tankersley Young

All Things Insensible 167

Lucia Trent

Breed, Women, Breed 168

Lady in a Limousine 169

Parade the Narrow Turrets 170

Ruth Lechlitner

On the Wall to Your Left 171

Susan McMillan Shepherd

White Man's Blues 172

Mary LeDuc Gibbons

Mothers 173

Joy Davidman

This Woman 174

Twentieth-Century Americanism 175

Prayer Against Indifference 178

Tillie Olsen

I Want You Women Up North to Know 179

Florence Reece

Which Side Are You On? 182

Aunt Molly Jackson

I Am a Union Woman 184

The Hungry Blues 185

Part III Reportage, Theory, and Analysis 187

Worlds Unseen: Political Women Journalists and the 1930s Charlotte Nekola 189

Josephine Herbst

A Passport from Realengo 18 199

Agnes Smedley

The People in China 203

Anna Louise Strong

Fighters for Women's Rights 215

Front Trenches-Northwest 224

Ella Winter

Woman Freed 228

Ruth Gruber

Finding Women 236

Tillie Olsen

The Strike 245

Vivian Dahl

Them Women Sure Are Scrappers 252

Elaine Ellis

Women of the Cotton Fields 255

Mary Guimes Lear

Bessie: A Garment Strike Story 258

Ella Ford

We Are Mill People 264


My Life: A True Story by a Negro Worker of the South 270

And Mine: A True Story by a Negro Worker of the North 272

No More Helling! A True Story by a Working Woman 274

Mollie V. Lewis

Negro Women in Steel 276

Dorothy Day

A Good Landlord (An Interview with Our Janitress) 279

Thyra J. Edwards

Chicago in the Rain (Relief for Negro Homeless Men on the South Side) 282

Mary Heaton Vorse

School for Bums 285

Hard-Boiled 291

Myra Page

"Leave Them Meters Be!" 293

"Water!" 296

Meridel Le Sueur

The Fetish of Being Outside 299

Mary Inman

Manufacturing Femininity 304

The Pivot of the System 308

The Code of a Class 312

Rebecca Pitts

Women and Communism 316

Grace Hutchins

Women under Capitalism 329

The Double Burden 335

Contributors 341

Acknowledgments 347

What People Are Saying

“This historic volume powerfully captures the vital role revolutionary women played in shaping American radicalism during the Great Depression. It is a must-read for anyone interested in history, gender, and politics.” —Keisha N. Blain, author of Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America

“This republication of Writing Red comes to us just as we are primed to think deeply about gender, race, and class in a moment that mirrors both the tragedy and creative awakening in the aftermath of the early twentieth century’s capitalist crisis. In the 1930s, in the 1980s, and again today, these women writers attend to our neglected realities and dreams. Hopefully, future generations will learn how not to forget them, and we will all benefit from their wisdom and perspective, moving forward toward the freedom of not just some but all.” —Gina Dent, co-author of Abolition. Feminism. Now.

“Thirty-five years ago, Nekola and Rabinowitz produced a labor of love, the path-breaking anthology, Writing Red. Indefatigable researchers, they discovered radical women writers whose work had gone missing from histories of the Thirties and histories of feminism. Theirs was not an academic exercise, but rather an effort to show that radical women of the Thirties, in their desire to tackle capitalism, racism and patriarchy, were there well before us. Now that historians are re-periodizing the women’s movement, suggesting the Thirties rather than the Sixties as its starting point, Writing Red is more essential than ever.” —Alice Echols, Barbra Streisand Chair of Contemporary Gender Studies at the University of Southern California

“From Meridel Le Sueur’s fiction to Margaret Walker’s poetry, from legendary folk singer Aunt Molly Jackson’s lyrics to Tillie Olsen’s reportage from the West Coast Longshoreman’s Strike of 1934, Writing Red reignites the fires behind the battlelines of women’s struggles in the 1930s for a new generation of readers. Contemporary organizers and activists in abortion rights, trade unions, gender studies, sex work, and other sites of social action will find comrades-in-arms from a century ago in this magnificent volume by Nekola and Rabinowitz.” —Mark Nowak, author of Social Poetics

“Writing Red is an indispensable record of the political struggles and intersectional solidarities of 1930s women radicals. With this updated edition, the revolutionary desires of the past are illuminated anew for the next generation of readers, writers, and activists. A testament to feminist collaboration, and a call to meet the challenges of the present, Writing Red is an enduring and necessary book.” —Sarah Ehlers, author of Left of Poetry: Depression America and the Formation of Modern Poetics

“In Writing Red, Paula Rabinowitz and Charlotte Nekola introduce twenty-first century readers to remarkable writers from an extraordinary decade. Exquisitely readable and superbly informative, these collected voices bring to life women in fields and factories, kitchens, battlefields, and on the picket lines. By drawing attention to sexuality, domestic labor, motherhood, gender and racial oppression, these radical writers amplified the Left of their time. They remain a vital resource in ours.” —Rosemary Hennessy, author of Profit and Pleasure: Sexual Identities in Late Capitalism

“Writing Red is one of those rare books that transformed twentieth century literary history forever. This bold and brilliant anthology, curated with audacity by Charlotte Nekola and Paula Rabinowitz, became the vanguard text of a new direction in the study of United States Literary Radicalism, one that upended the masculinist narrative of the Marxist-led cultural movement of the 1930s. Nearly four decades later, its unparalleled mission of reinvention continues to refresh and inspire scholars, activists, and readers.” —Alan Wald, author of Exiles from a Future Time: The Forging of the Mid-Twentieth Century Literary Left

“This superb anthology offers the perfect introduction to the wide range of radical women writers in '30s America. And it documents a key moment in the evolution of the progressive movement in the US. A perfect book for any course touching on the Depression Era or the history of radicalism.” —T.V. Reed, author of The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Present

“In this time of precarity, pandemic, and protest, we need more than ever to read those women writers of short fiction, poetry, and reportage that Charlotte Nekola and Paula Rabinowitz first anthologized in 1987. Writing Red captures anger at exploitation and longing for a more just world: among both the left authors of the depression decade of 1930-1940 and its feminist editors of the 1980s, when women's studies as a field became institutionalized. We need these fighting words to counter the fascism and financial capitalism of our time.” —Eileen Boris, author of Making the Woman Worker: Precarious Labor and the Fight for Global Standards, 1919-2019

“When it was first published in 1987, Writing Red exploded the leftist literary landscape by forcefully demonstrating how Depression-era women writers engaged carefully with gender, sexuality, class, and race in their radical work. Thanks to this timely republication of a classic anthology, an entirely new generation of readers and activists can grapple with the brilliant pieces it contains – even as they ask themselves why so many of the struggles found in this essential volume’s pages continue to feel eerily familiar. Populated with the energetic voices of women who imagined their fiction, poetry, and reportage as essentially connected to on-the-ground protest, Writing Red will inspire, challenge, and provoke all who peruse its pages.” —Aaron Lecklider, author of Love's Next Meeting: The Forgotten History of Homosexuality and the Left in American Culture

“This volume excavates the stories, poems, and reportage of women writers whose work originally appeared in now-defunct Left journals. This essential collection should inspire.” ―Library Journal

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