Eleanor Marx: A Life

Bloomsbury USA. 2015. 528p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9781620409701. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781620409718. PHIL
OrangeReviewStarIn this first biography of Eleanor Marx (1855–98) since Yvonne Kapp's 1976 two-volume Eleanor Marx, Holmes (The Hottentot Venus) begins by declaring the daughter of Karl Marx the "foremother of socialist feminism" and declaring that, "not since Mary Wollstonecraft has any woman made such a profound, progressive contribution to English political thought." While readers may not agree with every point the author makes, one can't help but be carried along by Holmes's explicitly feminist narrative in this engaging and suspense-filled volume documenting the younger Marx's personal and political life. There is never a dull moment as the book moves from her early family life and her education at the feet of Marx and Friedrich Engels; an early career as her father's secretary and researcher at the British Museum; her work as a translator, educator, and advocate for new literature and theatre, and as a socialist agitator and trade union leader; and her intellectual and ultimately tragic romantic partnership with Edward Aveling.
VERDICT Readers of biography generally, as well as those with an interest in the history of 19th-century political life, the development of British socialism and trade unionism, Marxism, 19th-century literary life, and feminism will all find something in this satisfying and original biography.
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