Solidarity's Secret: The Women Who Defeated Communism in Poland
The first book to document women's crucial role in the fall of Poland's communist regime
"This important book explores one of the most pivotal periods in Polish history and deals with a topic nearly everyone else overlooked. Shana Penn's study begins with a simple question I wish I had thought more about myself: once the leadership of Solidarity had been arrested during the 1981 military coup, who kept the movement alive over the following months and years? The answer will surprise you, as Penn delves into the lives of seven Polish women activists who rose to the call, set about saving an entire political movement, and in time turned themselves into some of the most powerful women
in Poland today."
-Lech Walesa, former President of Poland and winner of the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize
Solidarity's Secret is the first book to record the crucial yet little-known role women played in the rise of an independent press in Poland and in the fall of that country's communist government. Shana Penn pieces together a decade of interviews with the women behind the Polish pro-democracy movement -- women whose massive contributions were obscured by the more public successes of their male counterparts.
Penn reveals the story of how these brave women ran Solidarity and the main opposition newspaper, Tygodnik Mazowsze, while prominent men like Lech Walesa were underground or in jail during the 1980s martial law years. The same women then went on to play influential roles in post-communist Poland. Solidarity's Secret gives us a richly detailed story-within-a-story -- unheard of not only in the West, but until recently even within Poland itself -- from one of the most important eras in modern history.
Shana Penn is an Open Society Institute fellow and visiting scholar at Mills College's Women's Leadership Institute. She directs the Jewish Heritage Initiative in Poland, a philanthropic program of the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture, based in San Francisco.