CLIO TALKS BACK: When Political Women are not so caring: Ana Pauker, the Dragon Lady of Romania

Clio has observed that not all women in political life have inevitably been compassionate or caring. Take the case of Ana Pauker (1893-1960). Pauker became a force in the Romanian Communist Party and subsequently Romania’s foreign minister in the late 1940s.

Clio turns to historienne Ann Taylor Allen, for a glimpse at Pauker’s career.

“Perhaps the only woman who forced her way into the power elite of a communist state through her own efforts, and not by riding the coattails of male relatives, was the Romanian Ana Pauker. Born as Hannah Rabinsohn into an orthodox Jewish family in 1893, Pauker became a communist party member and activist in the 1920s. Between 1940 and 1944, Pauker lived in exile in Moscow, where she became the leader of the Romanian communist community there. She re-entered Romania when Soviet forces occupied it in 1945, and, after the communist seizure of power, became the country’s foreign minister. In 1948, Pauker’s portrait appeared on the cover of Time captioned “The Most Powerful Woman in the World” [20 Sept. 1948].

“In Romania and throughout the world, she acquired the reputation of a fanatical Stalinist who would do anything – including denounce her own husband to the police – to carry out her leader’s dictates. In fact, as the historian Robert Levy points out, Pauker opposed some Stalinist policies, including the forced collectivizaion of Romanian agriculture, and we do not know why her husband became a victim of Stalin’s purges. But the demonic image that she acquired expressed the fear and hatred that the spectacle of a powerful and ruthless woman evoked. Pauker fell from power when she and her faction were expelled from the Romanian Communist Party in 1952, and she died in 1960.”

Source: Ann Taylor Allen, Women in Twentieth-Century Europe (Houndmills: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2008), pp. 98-99. See also Robert Levy, Ana Pauker: The Rise and Fall of a Jewish Communist (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).