|Martha Ackelsberg grew up on progressive politics. Born in 1946 in New York
City to Socialist Zionist parents, politics was always a part of the daily conversation.
She received her BA in Social Studies from Radcliffe College, where she studied social
history, philosophy, social movements, and the labor movement. Her serious interest in
anarchism emerged while exploring the failure of 19th century Liberal agrarian
policy to improve conditions for the majority of Spanish people. It was here that she
discovered the anarchists, and wrote her thesis on anarchism and agrarian politics in
While attending Princeton
University, where she received
her MA and PhD in political philosophy, she was inspired by Godwins political theory
and explored anarchist theories of justice in Godwin, Bakunin, and Kropotkin. Combining
anarchist political theory and her previous work on the Spanish Anarchists, her
dissertation focused on anarchist theory and practice, with a case study of anarchist
collectives during the Spanish Civil War.
In 1972, Ackelsberg joined the Department of Government
(political science) at Smith College. She has worked there since, and has taught political
theory, urban politics, political activism, and feminist theory. Her book Free Women of
Spain developed out of the desire to examine male/female relations in the Spanish
anarchist collectives. Her other writings focus on womens community activism in the
US and the world, gender and public policy, feminist and democratic theory, and women in
Jewish communities. Ackelsberg lives in Northampton, MA, where she is actively involved in
progressive and feminist causes.
Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the
Emancipation of Women. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.
"Gender and Political Life: New Directions in Political
Science," with Irene Diamond. In Analyzing Gender: A Handbook of Social Science
Research, edited by Beth B. Hess and Myra Marx Ferre. Beverly Hills: Sage
"Anarchism and Feminism," with Kathryn Pyne Addelson and Shawn
Pyne. In Impure Thoughts: Essays on Philosophy, Feminism and Ethics, edited by
Kathryn Pyne Addelson. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991.
"Terrains of Protest: Striking City Women," with Myrna
Brietbart. Our Generation, Vol. 19, No. 1 (1987): 151-175.
"Communities, Resistance, and Womens Activism." In
Women and the Politics of Empowerment: Perspectives from the Community and the Workplace, edited
by Ann Bookman and Sandra Morgen. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988.
"Pride, Prejudice, and Politics: Jewish Jews on the American
Left," Response, #4, 1982.
Among her influences, Ackelsberg cites E.P. Thompson, E.J. Hobsbawm,
Carole Pateman, and the women of the Mujeres Libres.