Red Valkyries: Feminist Lessons From Five Revolutionary Women

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    Kristen Ghodsee

    Publisher: Verso

    Year: 2022

    Format: Hardcover

    Size: 224 pages

    ISBN: 9781839766602

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The lives of five socialist women and their legacy for modern-day feminists

Red Valkyries
explores the history of socialist feminism in Eastern Europe. Through the revolutionary careers of five prominent socialist women active in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—the aristocratic Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai; the radical pedagogue Nadezhda Krupskaya; the polyamorous firebrand Inessa Armand; the deadly sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko; and the partisan, scientist, and global women’s activist Elena Lagadinova—Kristen Ghodsee tells the story of the personal challenges faced by earlier generations of radicals.

None of these women was a perfect leftist. Their lives were filled with inner conflicts, contradictions, and sometimes outrageous privilege. But they managed to fight for their own political projects with perseverance and dedication. 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 women pursued novel solutions with many lessons for those who might follow in their footsteps.

What People Are Saying

“We’ve needed this book longer than we know: celebrating and learning from revolutionary socialist women, Red Valkyries gifts us with models essential to today’s struggles. Kristen Ghodsee breaks down the wall liberal feminism built in women’s history, bringing to life a vision of emancipation that continues to be worth fighting for.”
Jodi Dean, author of Comrade

“Written with clarity and zest, Red Valkyries is an illuminating introduction to the extraordinary lives of prominent socialist women in the Soviet Union and Bulgaria.”
Sheila Rowbotham, author of Daring to Hope

“In our historical moment, quotas of women in power positions and correct manners or expressions are obfuscating the long historical link between feminism and radical politics. Ghodsee’s Red Valkyries is exactly the book needed to correct this misperception and help feminism to rejoin its radical past. The five figures analyzed were fighters who pursued the feminist cause through their full engagement in revolutionary political struggle.”
Slavoj Žižek

Red Valkyries is a fascinating alternative history of the feminist movement, told from the perspective of the east rather than the west. The women Ghodsee profiles are committed socialists who realise that women’s liberation is incompatible with capitalism, and who also frequently struggle against the centralisation of power within their own countries. Required reading for anyone seeking out an alternative to #girlboss feminism.”
Grace Blakeley, author of The Corona Crash

"A beautiful book about the intimate lives and bold ideas of Communist women who built theirrevolutionary dreams into reality. Ghodsee lifts up the immense contradiction between thefuture-oriented social hopes of these revolutionaries, these exiles from the future, and the grip ofthe social conventions of the present.”
Vijay Prashad, author of Washington Bullets

“Until the late 20th century, you could pay close attention in school, graduate from a prestigious university with a degree in history and still never find out who Harriet Tubman was. Outrageous, right? But due to capitalist ideology and Cold War hangover, you could still do all that and never learn about Alexandra Kollontai or Inessa Armand, or any of history’s great Communist women. Kristen Ghodsee’s riveting account of these complicated, imperfect and inspiring lives is an outstanding corrective to our miseducation, one that’s long overdue.”
Liza Featherstone

“Funny and politically illuminating, Ghodsee writes with the clear-sighted directness of the revolutionary women she describes. Women’s sexual, political and daily emancipation were the eye of the socialist storm for Kollantai, Krupskaya, Armand and Lagadinova. Ghodsee's book breathes new life into their stories of how to create a world without patriarchy.”
Elizabeth Armstrong, Smith College

“Kristen Ghodsee’s new book is a well-documented and immensely personal guide to the 20th-century East European socialist women’s movement. The author extracts from silence and saves from oblivion five women who have made an attempt to change not only their own, personal history, but also political, social and cultural history of women in Europe and worldwide. It is a story about a communist revolution in which women played a significant role, creating and implementing the project of a better world for all people. Reflections on the past are not, however, used to celebrate it nostalgically, but to draw conclusions for the future—how to act to build an alternative to the hegemony of capitalism and nationalism. This well-written, passionate story about the “red Valkyries” shows that socialism is not a song of the past, but still valid and long-awaited response to the challenges of the present world. Ghodsee argues that the history is not over, but rushes forward. Speeding up, however, it needs signposts to avoid falling into the abyss. The Red Valkyries will be perfect for this role.”
Agnieszka Mrozik, Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences

“Compelling … by telling unfamiliar and forgotten stories, [Red Valkyries] suggests there are other fronts on which the battle can be fought than those favoured by western feminists.”
Desmond Bullen, Northern Soul

Tags: actually existing socialism ....... anticapitalism ....... europe ....... feminism ....... Kristen Ghodsee ....... marxism ....... sexuality ....... Verso .......