“A breast for all … and milk for all”: Meridel le sueur’s the girl and the 1930s CPUSA

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The context in which fragments of Meridel Le Sueur’s novel The Girl first appeared in the New Masses helped to deflect and diffuse her feminist message. The articles, poems, and illustrations surrounding her work in this publication promoted Popular Front goals such as defeating fascism through alliances with other progressive groups, and endorsed conservative roles for women as part of this program. An analysis of these materials in conjunction with contemporary Communist party responses to Le Sueur’s work reveals critical differences between her political agenda and that of the 1930s CPUSA. At a time when the Party was courting middle-class members and promoting traditional notions of virtue and motherhood, Le Sueur wrote about prostitutes and sterilization policies. Instead of adhering to New Masses editor Mike Gold’s proletarian aesthetic, she offered solidarity between women as a solution to social and economic injustice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-530
Number of pages17
JournalRethinking Marxism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2009


  • Communist Party USA
  • Left Feminism
  • Meridel Le Sueur
  • Popular Front
  • Proletarian Literature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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