Angelica Balabanoff

Rebelling against her privileged upbringing, Angelica Balabanoff embraced socialism and rose to become one of the most celebrated activists and politicians of her day. Balabanoff left home at nineteen to earn a doctorate in philosophy at the radical Université Nouvelle in Brussels, where she also befriended many major figures of the Second International, a socialist group. After various travels, she moved to Rome, where she organized textile workers. In 1901 she returned to Switzerland, where she helped the Italian immigrant workforce, was elected to the executive committee of Switzerland’s Italian Socialist Party, and befriended the young Benito Mussolini, introducing him to socialist organizations. She moved back to Italy in 1910, where she served on the Socialist Central Committee and edited their official journal, Avanti. Throughout WWI she was a charismatic public speaker urging socialists to call for peace. After the 1917 Revolution, she returned to Russia and briefly served as secretary of the Communist International, but was removed after a year for protesting Lenin’s corrupt rule.  She left Russia in 1921, travelled extensively, and settled in New York during WWII, where she wrote My Life as a Rebel and The Traitor: Benito Mussolini and His “Conquest” of Power. After the war, she returned to Italy to aid the Socialist Party.

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Angelica Balabanoff with David Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv, 1962.

Image courtesy of the Israel National Photo Collection (D684-054).

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Angelica Balabanoff." (Viewed on January 25, 2021) <>.


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