Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Agnes Smedley wanted to be known, and primarily is known, as an independent American radical, a working-class feminist, and a writer who served the causes in which she believed. She was born in Campground, Missouri, on February 23, 1892, the daughter of a farmer and jack-of-all-trades, Charles Smedley, and his wife, Sarah Ralls. Smedley’s lifelong commitment to the causes of the poor and to feminism were fueled by the wretched life she experienced as a child. Her family moved constantly. Their constant financial instability caused both parents to suffer, something they, at times, passed on to their children. Her mother died at an early age from the cumulative effects of poverty and overwork.
With the help of relatives, Smedley escaped from this life by getting an eighth-grade education and becoming a schoolteacher. At one of her jobs she met the sister of Ernest Brundin, who would later become Smedley’s first husband, and she moved with the two of them to California, where they all became involved in radical political movements. Smedley learned about the anti-imperialist Indian national independence movement, about anarchism and socialism from Emma Goldman, and about Margaret Sanger’s birth control movement. While she admired the cultural sophistication of the Brundins, transplanted New Yorkers, she remained throughout her life a rough, earthy, outspoken person. Eventually she married Ernest Brundin, but they were temperamentally unsuited to each...
(The entire section is 944 words.)
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