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Choosing Revolution

Chinese Women Soldiers on the Long March

Helen PraegerYoung

Publication Year: 2001

Some two thousand 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. _x000B__x000B_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--both educated individuals who were well-known leaders and illiterate peasants--reveal the Long March as only one of many segments of the revolutionary paths they chose._x000B__x000B_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._x000B__x000B__x000B_

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

It is a distinct pleasure to acknowledge people who have helped and supported me over the many years this book has been in process. However, I also feel an anxiety arising from the fear that I might have missed someone and the knowledge that I can never adequately thank all those who so generously gave of their time and expertise, ...

Pronunciation Guide

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pp. xiii-xiv


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pp. xv-xviii

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pp. 3-18

Forced by encircling Nationalist troops to abandon their Base Areas in eastern and central China, the Chinese Red Army struck out across China in the mid-1930s. They strove to move north to join their comrades but were constantly prevented from doing so by enemy forces. The Red Army retreated to the southwestern border of China, ...

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1. Newborn on the March

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pp. 19-59

Jian Xianren and her younger sister, Jian Xianfo, joined the Red Army as a means of self-protection. Jian Xianren’s revolutionary commitment had been forged during student days by the exciting ideas she and her brother encountered in the newly established schools they attended during the 1920s, which they passed along to their younger siblings. ...

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2. Revolutionary, Mother

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pp. 60-81

Chen Zongying and I stand side by side. The top of her head does not quite reach my shoulder, although she is stretching tall on her abnormally small feet. Even knowing the resilience of Chinese country people, I find it hard to believe that this fragile woman in her mid-eighties had spent her childbearing years as an underground Communist activist ...

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3. Little Devil

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pp. 82-118

The picture Ma Yixiang paints of her childhood is extremely grim, without any folksongs, stories, or legends to lighten the image of ceaseless drudgery and anguish that poverty and hunger can bring. Her father was continually disappearing to avoid his debts and family responsibility, her mother disliked her and blamed her for the deaths of her siblings, ...

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4. From Soldier to Doctor

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pp. 119-130

The Chinese Communist armies on the March were small mobile cities. One women’s regiment was actually a clothing factory; there was a print shop, and of course there were hospitals. Probably the most unusual service was a medical school that conducted classes and graduated students during the March. ...

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5. Why We Joined

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pp. 131-145

The women soldiers on the Long March whom I interviewed told stories of leaving children behind with peasant families, crossing glacier mountains in the third trimester of pregnancy, leaving babies where they were born, or carrying them along a day or two after birth. They described the work they did as soldiers, carrying stretchers, ...

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6. Women at Work

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pp. 146-161

The following stories about the work done by women during the Long March are drawn from translations of a series of interviews by the author between 1986 and 1989. The twenty-three women who were interviewed represent a fair selection of Long March veterans. When they began the Long March, their ages ranged from twelve to thirty-two; ...

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7. First Front Women

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pp. 162-215

In this chapter, twelve women give voice to their experiences on the Long March in a chorus of voices that is greater than the sum of its parts. The same story told from the different perspectives formed by their various backgrounds, experiences, and personalities emphasizes the collective nature of Chinese Communist society in an immediate way. ...

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8. Left Behind

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pp. 216-240

Three of our First Front Army women did not complete the Long March. Li Guiying and Xie Xiaomei, whose husbands were wounded in fierce fighting after the Zunyi conference, were left behind with their husbands to work in the civilian sector. Li Guiying and her husband were sent into southern Sichuan to join the guerrilla troops. ...

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pp. 241-246

When Wang Quanyuan’s sister soldiers from the First Front Army reached northern Shaanxi province in autumn 1935, their welcome sense of relief at being with their comrades in a place that seemed safe was tempered by the hard conditions facing them. They immediately joined in the business of enlarging the Shaan-Gan-Ning Soviet Base Area, ...


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pp. 247-262


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pp. 263-268


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pp. 269-282

E-ISBN-13: 9780252092985
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252026720

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2001