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Anna Louise Strong (1885-1970)

Anna Louise Strong

Anna Louise strong was a passionate journalist, writer, pacifist, workers advocate, and a champion of child welfare. An internationalist who was admired by revolutionary and workers’ leaders all around the world. She was a woman ahead of her time.

Anna was born on November 24th, in a socially conscious religious family. Her family left Friend, Nebraska for Seattle, Washington when she was about two years old. At the age of 19, she graduated from Oberon College, Ohio. At the age of 23, she finished her education in philosophy and became the youngest woman ever to receive a doctorate degree from the University of Chicago.

During her father’s missionary works across America, Anna became acquainted with child labor, child poverty, miserable lives of working class families, and the racial discrimination rampant in the U.S. society.

As a passionate advocate of child welfare, she organized an exhibit of child poverty and toured it vastly across the U.S. and abroad. During May 1914, this exhibition attracted more than 40,000 people, only in Seattle.

Anna first believed that with better social arrangements, injustice could be put under restraint. But soon after she realized that there is an economic base for all of human miseries and that is capitalism and its final stage, imperialism. To change the world, you have to change its underlying cause, the economic system.

Anna became a member of the Industrial Workers of the World union. On November 5th 1916, when the Everett, Washington massacre of workers by police and vigilantly took place, she was there as a journalist. By witnessing the brutality of the reactionary forces, she became a passionate advocate and spokesperson for workers’ rights.

In 1917, as the U.S. entered World War I, she spoke out fervently against the draft and opposed military training in schools. This move was supported widely by women’s clubs and by the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).

She wrote fiery pro-labor articles in the Union Record newspaper and promoted Soviet government in the state of Washington. Meanwhile, she supported and reported the 1919 Seattle General Strike.

In 1921, as a correspondent for the American Friends Service Committee, Anna traveled to Poland and Russia, sending reports among them, for Hearst magazines and the North American Newspaper Alliance. A year later, she was named Moscow correspondent for the International News Service. By watching the events happening in Soviet Russia, she became more and more interested in socialism and a dedicated supporter of the Soviet Union.

During the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, she traveled to Central Asia and China. In 1930, she returned back to Moscow and helped the founding of Moscow News, the first English-language newspaper in the city. She met many Soviet leaders and even taught English to Trotsky.

In 1932, Anna married Joel Shubin a dedicated Soviet socialist. They were often separated due to their political assignments. Shubin died in 1942, when Anna was far from her husband. Anna never married again.

In 1936, Anna returned to the U.S. one additional time. Privately unhappy with the wrong direction of socialism in USSR, she wrote for the Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, the Nation and Asia.

In 1937, as a journalist and to support progressive forces against Franco’s fascists, Anna visited Spain and reported from its battlefields. Her many visits resulted in her book, Spain in Arms.

At the time of World War II, Anna followed the Red Army in its advances in Eastern Europe against the Nazis and sent back first hand reports of fascists’ brutalities.

In 1946, she interviewed Mao Tse-Tung in a Yennan cave and became a close friend of Chou En-Lai.

In the 1950s, when Anna was in China, she met William Edward B. DuBois, the prominent African-American civil rights activist and the Father of Pan-Africanism. They shared many ideas and both supported the Policies of China’s Communist Party and its Revolution.

In 1959, during the land distribution in Tibet and resistance of the landlords, lamas and CIA trained mercenaries against the reforms. Anna was there and wrote a book titled, “When Serfs Stood Up in Tibet”, based on her experience during this period. She also visited an exhibition of torture tools used during the “Shangri-La” period of Tibet. She wrote: “there were handcuffs of all sizes, including small ones for children, and instruments for cutting off noses and ears, gouging out eyes, breaking off hands, and hamstringing legs. There were hot brands, whips, and special implements for disemboweling. The exhibition presented photographs and testimonies of victims who had been blinded or crippled or suffered amputations for thievery. There was the shepherd whose master owed him a reimbursement in Yuan and wheat but refused to pay. So he took one of the master’s cows, for this he had his hands severed. Another herdsman, who opposed having his wife taken from him by his lord, had his hands broken off. There were pictures of Communist activists with noses and upper lips cut off, and a woman who was raped and then had her nose sliced away”. (Strong, Tibetan Interviews, 91-96.)

In her 80th birthday party in Shanghai, she was greeted by Mao Tse-Tung and toasted by Chou En-Lai. On March 29th 1970, when Anna Louise Strong died in Beijing, she was officially mourned by the state and buried in a special cemetery for martyrs of the Revolution.

“Witness to Revolution” is a 27 minute documentary produced in 1984, which portrays Anna Louise Strong. (Available on VHS and DVD.)

Anna wrote some thirty books and hundreds of articles which were published in different newspapers and magazines around the world.

Some of her works are:

  • No One Knows Where. (1919)

  • The First Time in History. (1925)

  • Children of Revolution. (1925)

  • China’s Millions. (1928)

  • The Red Star of Samarkand. (1929)

  • The Soviets Conquer Wheat. (1931)

  • Remaking of an American. (1935)

  • My Native Land. (1940)

  • Talk With Mao Tse-Tung. (1946)

  • I Saw The New Poland. (1946)

  • In North Korea: First Eye-Witness Report. (1949)

  • The Stalin Era. (1956)

  • Letters From China. (1963)

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