Agnes Smedley (1892-1950)
Agnes Smedley was an American author and writer known for her semi-autobiographical novel Daughter of Earth, as well as her sympathetic writings on the Chinese communist party including Chinese Destinies, China’s Red Army Marches, China Fights Back, and Battle Hymn of China. She was an ardent political activist, as well as a campaigner for women’s rights, birth control and children’s welfare. Born to a poor family from Missouri, she never finished her formal training but still excelled in school, and worked diligently to expand her knowledge. In New York she became involved in the movement to support India’s independence from Britain, where she was arrested in 1918 under the espionage act. Two months later she was released on bail, and spent over a year and a half fighting the indictments, leading to the charges finally being dropped. She chronicled her experiences in jail, and also worked for the Indians who had been indicted in the Hindu-German Conspiracy Trial. For several following years she lived in Germany where she set up Berlin’s first birth control clinic. Smedley then visited Russia, before moving to China where she worked as a correspondent for British, German and American publications, documenting the Chinese revolution. From November 1938 to April 1941 she visited both the Communist and Guomindang leaders in the war zone, the longest tour of the Chinese warfront
nd by any foreign correspondent, man or woman. In the 1930s she was also involved in a relationship with Soviet spy, and German journalist Richard Sorge, who spied on the Japanese government and was hanged in Tokyo in 1944. Smedley relocated to America where she advocated for China through writing articles and giving lectures. In 1947 she was accused of espionage, leading to her to the decision to flee to England, where she died in 1950. The FBI closed the investigation two years later. Her ashes are buried at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing.
Agnes Smedley and Zhu De