cover image In the Company of Radical Women Writers

In the Company of Radical Women Writers

Rosemary Hennessy. Univ. of Minnesota, $24.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-5179-1490-5

This dense study from Hennessy (Profit and Pleasure), an English professor at Rice University, examines the work of seven women communists whose writings tackled issues of social justice and labor during the Great Depression. She contends that the politics of Alice Childress, Marvel Cooke, Josephine Herbst, Claudia Jones, Louise Thompson Patterson, Muriel Rukeyser, and Meridel Le Sueur challenged the “disparity between the promise of democracy and the inequalities people lived under” by taking “a feminist approach to class, race, and gender.” Contending that her subjects were ahead of their time, Hennessy notes that journalists Cooke and Jones’s 1935 coverage of a unionization drive by domestic Black women workers in Harlem exposed how they labored under threat of sexual assault and how whiteness was “reproduced through a Black woman’s performance of her subordinate place.” Women’s bodily autonomy is another through line in the writers’ work, as in Le Sueur’s 1934 novel The Girl, which follows unmarried women living in an abandoned warehouse, some of whom “abort pregnancies [while] others resist forced sterilization.” The discussions of social reproduction, dialectical sensibility, and other Marxist concepts can get a bit knotty, but Hennessy’s case that these writers have been unjustly overlooked convinces. Leftist scholars will want to add this to their libraries. Photos. (Aug.)