In the Company of Radical Women Writers

2023
Author:

Rosemary Hennessy

Recovering the bold voices and audacious lives of women who confronted capitalist society’s failures and injustices in the 1930s—a decade unnervingly similar to our own

In the Company of Radical Women Writers rediscovers the political commitments and passionate advocacy of seven writers who as young women turned to communism during the Great Depression. Over decades of national crisis, they spoke to issues of labor, land, and love in ways that provide thought-provoking guidance and bracing inspiration in the ongoing fight for justice.

This truly revelatory work pushes the already rich encounters between contemporary left feminist scholars and 1930s radical women writers in new directions—new ways of thinking and new fields of desire. Beautifully written, it is a model of engaged, compassionate, and grounded activist research.

Paula Rabinowitz, author of American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street and coeditor of Writing Red: An Anthology of American Women Writers, 1930-1940

In the Company of Radical Women Writers rediscovers the political commitments and passionate advocacy of seven writers who as young women turned to communism during the Great Depression and, over decades of national crisis, spoke to issues of labor, land, and love in ways that provide urgent, thought-provoking guidance for today. Rosemary Hennessy spotlights the courageous lives of women who confronted challenges similar to those we still face: exhausting and unfair labor practices, unrelenting racial injustice, and environmental devastation.

As Hennessy brilliantly shows, the documentary journalism and creative and biographical writings of Marvel Cooke, Louise Thompson Patterson, Claudia Jones, Alice Childress, Josephine Herbst, Meridel Le Sueur, and Muriel Rukeyser recognized that life is sustained across a web of dependencies that we each have a duty to maintain. Their work brought into sharp focus the value and dignity of Black women’s domestic work, confronted the destructive myths of land exploitation and white supremacy, and explored ways of knowing attuned to a life-giving erotic energy that spans bodies and relations. Their ideas and publications also expanded the scope of American communism.

By tracing the attention these seven women pay to “life-making” as the relations supporting survival and wellbeing—from Harlem to the American South and Midwest—In the Company of Radical Women Writers reveals their groundbreaking reconceptions of the political and provides bracing inspiration in the ongoing fight for justice.

Rosemary Hennessy is L. H. Favrot Professor of Humanities and professor of English at Rice University. She has written three other books, including Fires on the Border (Minnesota, 2013).

This truly revelatory work pushes the already rich encounters between contemporary left feminist scholars and 1930s radical women writers in new directions—new ways of thinking and new fields of desire. Beautifully written, it is a model of engaged, compassionate, and grounded activist research.

Paula Rabinowitz, author of American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street and coeditor of Writing Red: An Anthology of American Women Writers, 1930-1940