Agnes Smedley’s (1894–1950) career as an activist journalist began in the 1910s and 1920s, with a
commitment to the Indian Independence movement. Her anti-imperialism was based on the Jeffersonian
tradition of the American Revolution. In New York, she was close to the Lion of the Punjab, Lala Lajpat Rai,
writing for his publications until his death. In California, she was involved with the Sikh-led Ghadar party of
insurrectionists. Her complicated relationship with the European movement leader Virendranath
Chattopadhyaya in Berlin in the 1920s is better known. Smedley left Europe for China in 1929 in an effort to
reach India through the backdoor. Once in China, she was struck by the poverty and oppression of ordinary
people. Her new cause, in addition to anti-imperialism, became the Chinese peasant. For the next two
decades she documented their plight in countless publications (including in the Indian press). Herself the
product of rural poverty, she identified like few Westerners did with the plight of peasants, Chinese or Indian,
and wrote biographies of Chinese peasant leaders such as Zhu De.
Today, inside and outside of Asia, Smedley is recognized as a feminist icon and one of the most important
chroniclers of the Chinese Revolution. Her story is told here for the first time in an Indian edition, including her
deep involvement with the Indian independence movement much before Gandhi appeared on the scene.