Agnes Smedley was born in Missouri in 1892 the second of five children
to a poor farming family. Her family moved to a Colorado mining town when
she was ten where she worked to support the family while attending school
until her late teens. Smedley never finished her formal training yet she
excelled in school. She accepted a teaching position in New Mexico that
led her to desire further education. From 1911-12 she attended the Tempe
Normal School as a special student. As a contributor and editor of the
Tempe Normal Student she began her career as a journalist. At Tempe Normal
she met and married Ernest Brudin and moved to California where she explored
socialist theories which influenced her political direction and her social
conscience. Marriage did not suit her so after six years she divorced
and moved to New York City.
In New York City she worked for Margaret Sanger on the Birth Control Review
and became involved with the movement to support India's independence
from Britain. Smedley relocated to Germany to live with Viren Chattopadhyaya(Chatto)
and worked for Indian independence. These were tumultuous years with serious
breakdowns both personally and politically. After psychoanalyses and the
completion of her autobiography he broke away from Chatto and the Indian
cause. As if this book released her she moved to Shanghai in 1929.
For years she chronicled the Chinese revolution as a war correspondent
for Germany, Britain and later the United States. She told the story of
the peasants, the Red army and the oppressed of China to the world. In
October of 1937 she joined the Eighth Route Army in the field. As it became
increasingly dangerous, she left the field in 1937 to organize medical
supplies and continue writing. From November 1938 to April 1941 she visited
resistance units under both the Communist and Guomindang leaders in the
war zone, the longest tour of the Chinese war by any foreign correspondent,
man or woman.
Convinced she could support the Far East in Washington D.C. she returned
to the United States. Smedley remained an advocate of China, writing several
books about China's revolution. She lived at a writer's colony in New
York State known as "Yaddo" through the middle forties. She
was a regular contributor to The Saratogian and wrote feature articles
for The New Masses, The Nation and The New Republic. In 1947 during the
McCarthy era she was accused of espionage. Smedley moved to England during
the investigation and died in 1950. In 1952 the F.B.I. closed the investigation.
Over the years Agnes Smedley had friends and associates who supported
a wide range of causes. Margaret Sanger, Emma Goldman, Roger Baldwin,
Ladip at Rai, Kathe Kollowitz, Lu Xun, Nehru, Richard Sorge, Soon Qingling,
and Chou En-Lai are some of the people who influenced Smedley's life.
Influenced by her impoverished childhood Agnes Smedley was an advocate
for women, children, peasants and liberation for the oppressed.
of Archives and Manuscripts
Arizona State ASU Library