Red Valkyries

Out now with Verso Books and as an audio book

Out in Italian, and forthcoming in Turkish, and French

Read the Introduction

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 analysed were fighters who pursued the feminist cause through their full engagement in revolutionary political struggle. Can we still imagine this, in our era obsessed with victimization?– Slavoj Zizek

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

“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

“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

“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

Red Valkyries Kristen Ghodsee

Jacket Copy:

The overlooked revolutionary women of Eastern Europe and their contribution to socialist feminist history, from the author of Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism.

Through a series of lively and accessible biographical essays, Red Valkyries explores the history of socialist feminism by examining the revolutionary careers of five prominent socialist women active in the 19th and 20th centuries.

  • Alexandra Kollontai, the aristocratic Bolshevik
  • Nadezhda Krupskaya, the radical pedagogue
  • Inessa Armand, the polyamorous firebrand
  • Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the deadly sniper
  • Elena Lagadinova, the partisan turned scientist turned global women's rights activist

None of these women were “perfect” leftists. Their lives were filled with inner conflicts, contradictions, and sometimes outrageous privilege, but they still managed to move forward their own political projects through perseverance and dedication to their cause.

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 five women fought for social change with important lessons for feminist activists today.  
In brief conversational chapters Ghodsee tells the story of the personal challenges faced by earlier generations of socialist and communist women and renders the big ideas of socialist feminism accessible to those newly inspired by the emancipatory politics of left feminist movements around the globe.