“Young Russian Woman With an Infernal Machine in Handkerchief”

Sof'ja_Perovskaja_1The newest addition to the Libertarian Labyrinth archive is The Beautiful Nihilist: Representations of Revolutionary Women. The project is to gather material from the popular press depicting radical and particularly militant women, in all its sensationalist and often exploitative glory. The articles and tales collected here document a familiar fascination with a political variety of femme fatale, often with a great deal of emphasis on the sexual desirability and social status of the women portrayed in presumably “unwomanly” acts of violence. At the same time, however, the tabloid presentation often allows important bits of history and biography to show through. Indeed, in many cases, this spectacular journalism is all that we have to document the lives of women who were on the front lines of the most militant sorts of struggles.

Expect lots of headlines like the one at the top of the post, or “Plot of a Beautiful Nihilist: To Make Her Lovers Kill the Czar—Her Failure and Trial—The Official’s Side of a Story Hitherto Told Differently.” The newspaper articles will be seasoned with some bits of fiction, although it may be hard at times to tell which is which.

The Beautiful Nihilist is ultimately part of a long-term project to document the more militant side of the anarchist tradition, along with projects like Saint-Ravachol: Myth and Resistance. But it is also a sister-site to La Frondeuse: Black and Red Feminism and the Emma Goldman archive, Anarchy and the Sex Question.


The addition of a new section in the archives, along with my decision to keep a couple of slowly developing projects online, will necessitate a bit of house-cleaning and link-shuffling, some of which is already underway. Part of that process is the establishment of some gallery pages, including one featuring newspaper sketches of Emma Goldman.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.