A highly readable biography of a woman who, says Milton, is little known in this country but a ""famous American"" like George Washington and FDR to Chinese schoolchildren. Agnes Smedley grew up poor in Colorado and dropped out of elementary school to work. Later, however, she managed to attend college, where she met and married an engineer--whom she subsequently left because of her reluctance to have children. She then immersed herself in radical causes and lived for years in Germany with an Indian devoted to Indian independence. Then, at 36, in 1928, Smedley became a partisan journalist in China, where she mixed with rural peasants, Mao's army, and Mao himself in the years before he came to power. Through Smedley's eyes, Milton describes China under Chiang Kai-shek, the dedication of the Communist soldiers, their sympathetic relationship with the peasants, and the uneasy one between Chiang's and Mao's troops. She manages to convey all that's necessary for understanding these historical conflicts without resorting to dull, summary-style background briefings; and at the same time she gives us a sympathetic but honest picture of a woman who--more than many being dredged up for liberated consideration--is both little known and worth knowing.