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Choosing Revolution

Some 2,000 women participated in the Long March, but their experience of this seminal event in the history of Communist China is rarely represented. In Choosing Revolution, Helen Praeger Young presents her interviews with twenty-two veterans of the Red Army's legendary 6,000-mile "retreat to victory" before the advancing Nationalist Army.

Enormously rich in detail, Young's Choosing Revolution reveals the complex interplay between women's experiences and the official, almost mythic version of the Long March. In addition to their riveting stories of the march itself, Young's subjects reveal much about what it meant in China to grow up female and, in many cases, poor during the first decades of the twentieth century. In speaking about the work they did and how they adapted to the demands of being a soldier, these women reveal the Long March as only one of many segments of the revolutionary paths they chose.

Against a background of diverse perspectives on the Long March, Young presents the experiences of four women in detail: one who brought her infant daughter with her on the Long March, one who gave birth during the march, one who was a child participant, and one who attended medical school during the march. Young also includes the stories of three women who did not finish the Long March. Her unique record of ordinary women in revolutionary circumstances reveals the tenacity and resilience that led these individuals far beyond the limits of most Chinese women's lives.

Product Details

Promotional Information

The first book to deal in depth and in a human way with many of the women who "chose revolution" and joined the soldiers and shared the hardships of Revolutionary China's famous Long March.

About the Author

Helen Praeger Young is a visiting scholar in the center for East Asian studies at Stanford University.


"What happened to babies born to women soldiers in Chinese communist armies in the mid-1930s? This chilling question and many others are answered in this book about the dozens of women who participated in the Long March... The book will fascinate readers interested in military and women's history... Young presents the female veteran's stories well, combining interview excerpts and useful background information." -- Choice " unvarnished image of peasant day-to-day life, of family struggles over foot binding, of the fantastic gulf between boys and girls, and of individuality in a common culture." Science & Society ADVANCE PRAISE: "Helen Praeger Young's Choosing Revolution carries our knowledge of Chinese girls and women on the Long March to a completely new level: by dint of protracted and thoughtful interviewing across many years, she has been able to recapture the texture of their experiences in vivid and often heartrending detail." -- Jonathan D. Spence, author of The Search for Modern China "War is hell, but it is also laundry, literacy, and having babies on the Long March. In this meticulously researched study, Helen Praeger Young introduces a medical student who must cook down a cadaver to learn skeletal anatomy; a child propagandist warmly supporting communism although she "didn't know how"; a mother who remembers a major offensive as "when the baby's vaccination scabbed over." Young's knowledge of China's women veterans illuminates the 1949 Revolution in an entirely novel and beautifully human way." -- Hill Gates, author of Looking for Chengdu: A Woman's Adventures in China "Young has both enriched and altered our views of the Long March by presenting the experiences and memories of women who participated in this epic yet deeply human event... In examining the lives of these women, we ourselves come to have a richer, more human, and more believable understanding of the Long March. Highly recommended." -- Lyman P. Van Slyke, author of Yangtze: Nature, History, and the River

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