because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Agnes Smedley

Agnes Smedley may have been born in Missouri in 1892, but by the time she was out of her teens, she was a citizen of the world. Exposed to socialist ideas as a young adult, she worked with in-your-face woman Margaret Sanger in New York City for a time, but eventually became so deeply involved with the Indian struggle for independence from Great Britain that, when World War I came along (during which the British and U.S. were allies), Smedley was arrested for espionage and held until the war was over.

In the 1920's, Smedley followed a brilliant young Indian communist to Germany and worked with several left-wing groups there until 1928, when she took a position as a correspondent for a German newspaper that wanted someone to cover the revolution unfolding in China at the time. And cover it she did. For thirteen years.

Initially, in Shanghai, Smedley became involved in the work and workings of the Communist International that was trying to organize a world revolution from Moscow. But she ultimately committed herself and her almost inexhaustible energy as an organizer to the struggle of the people in China, becoming a close friend of Mao Tse-tung, among other revolutionary leaders.

She asked to join the Chinese Communist Party and was denied membership because of her "independent" (read "in-your-face woman's") mind. Still, when she died in 1950, Smedley's ashes were buried in a cemetery for revolutionaries outside Beijing. She entitled her autobiography Daughter of Earth and she was indeed; willing to work together with her fellow revolutionaries or stand alone, if need be, for all who are exploited and oppressed.

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