The Nihilist Princess by Louise M. Gagneur
The Nihilist Princess was originally published in the United States in 1881. By then the radically feminist author, Louise M. Gagneur, was one of the best-selling writers in Europe.
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Gagneur talls the tale of Princess Wanda, a relation of the Czar who has joined the nihilists. The nihilists are for freedom and against the enslavement of the Russian people by the Czar and his aristocracy. Though Wanda is the daughter of the powerful Prince Kryloff and is invited to the best balls of the empire, she must be careful to conceal her nihilist beliefs because even she could be tortured, exiled, or executed if caught by the secret police. This novel is a 19th century page-turner; most novels of that era now forced upon children in our schools pale by comparison.
“Set in czarist Russia, The Nihilist Princess is one of many works of fiction written during the late nineteenth century by French author Gagneur. The central character, Princess Wanda Kryloff, uses her royal connections and compelling beauty to undermine Russian aristocratic and authoritarian rule. Wanda travels nights dressed as a man, accompanied by her servant who introduced her to the nihilist cause. The princess joins the secretive Revolutionary Committee, concocts a fake marriage to gain autonomy from her father, and discovers that her mother is not dead but has also joined the revolutionary underground. The story is replete with revolutionary passion, furtive scheming, unrequited love, violent rebellion, and the ultimate sacrifice, death for the cause. The first twentieth-century publication of the novel and the only English-language translation of Gagneur’s writing, The Nihilist Princess presents women as active and critical participants in revolutionary activity; its Publication calls attention to a radical feminist author whose life and work deserve scholarly attention.”
— Susan K. Freeman, Journal of Women’s History