Communism and Women in the United States
According to Communist teachings, women are valuable partners in the fight for the working class. However, actual party leaders often failed to recognize the significant role women could play in their efforts to organize workers. While recruitment became a focus of party activities, resources were not spent to engage women. Often, women attended party meetings and events, but they were not encouraged to pursue membership. Those that did join did not hold leadership positions and were not expected to participate in meetings.
Despite this, women increasingly joined the party more and more in Chicago and nationwide in the 1930s. The party and the Young Communist League gave women opportunities to participate in the political realm and to gain experience in organizing. Women in the Communist Party began to speak out about the changing role of women in the home and in the world.
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Mollie West (right) and colleagues at a Chicago Communist Party organizing event.

 

Mollie as a Communist Party Organizer
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Mollie with James West, her second husband and a Communist Party USA leader.

Mollie remained very active in the Communist Party from her teen years and was eventually hired as a secretary. Like most women in the party, she performed menial work in the office and the behind the scenes organizing in her neighborhood on the West Side. Mollie spoke with community members about jobs and ways to gain new skills. She gained recognition from others for her outspoken speeches and her involvement in every workers’ strike in the city.

While working for the Communist Party, Mollie met fellow organizer James West. James grew up in New York and began his career in the Communist Party through the Young Communist League and working at the Daily Worker, a national Communist newspaper. The couple married in 1948.

In 1951, Mollie fulfilled her dream of becoming a mother when she and James adopted a baby boy, Steven.

 

 

 

 

Mollie and young Steve, 1954
Mollie with her son Steven (Steve) West in 1954. Steve was born in 1951 and was adopted by the Wests at six weeks old.

 

 

Header image: Mollie West at Communist Party event

 

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