** Soviet economy: feminism

Soviet Economy: Feminism

Figure 1.--Here we see some sturdy women at a Soviet industrial plant, we think in the 1950s. I taught a course in Russian history at a South Carlona high school during the heighth of the Cold War. The state didn't have any films I could use so on a flyer, I wrote the Soviet Emnassy. And sure enough they sent all kinds of films. The films were quite useful both for their historical content as well as generating all kinds of interesting class dicussions about propaganda. The Soviets did not have their prpaganda down very well. Young Americans today have all kinds of ideas about how great sociialism is. Not my kids. Thee girls took one look at heft Soviet women factory workers in drab work clothes slinging around huge sacks of coal and they knew that socialism was not for them.

Soviet schools taught children that is was the Communism Revolution that won rights for women. This was not entinerly accurate. It is certainly true that women had few rights in Tsarist society. The literally inclined will be aware of this as it is escribed in some detail by Tolstoy in Anna Karenia. There was no movement like the Suggregette Movement in the West because the Tsarist state was an absolutist monarchy. Men also did not have the right to vote. Women had few rights under Tsarist law. They were not quite propery of their athers and husbands, but close to it. They had responibility for domestic duties. Working-class women also often had to work outside the home to support the family. Women could not hold governmental office, even upper-class women. Tsarist Russia began building a public school system in the late-19th century. The schools were mostly for boys, although in the early-20th century we see some girls in primary schools. Only aristocratic women received any serious education and even their education was usually limited. We do not see women in the univeitie or evem secondary schools. Peasant women were motly illiterate, although we do see girls in some of the rural primary schoold by the early-20th century. There was a Tsarist women's organization--the Russian League of Women's Equality. The League was composed of hundreds of chapters throughout the country. It was a somewhat more respectable, sedate group than Western sufregette movements. This all began to change with World War I and the resulting Russian Revolution establishing a Provisinal Government (February 1917) which was several months before the Bolshevik (Communnist) Revolution. The Provisinal Government published its program in the newspapers (March 3). It established a parlimentary democracy with universal male sufferage. The women were not pleased. The League raised the issue and sent a petition to Prince Lvov, the first prime-minister. He ignored it. Some 40,000 women marched through St. Petersburg, the capital (March 19). The procession was headed by formidablw women on horseback, followed by two bands. The venerable revoluntinary Vera Figner rode in a car in the midst of the protest march. The women reached the State Duma and demanded a meeting with the deputies. Extended negotiations continued into the night. The primen-minister gave in, conceding the right to vote. Seven months later the Bolsheviks seized power leading to radical policies although the right to vote was soon lost. Three pioneering revolutionaries began early experiments with radical policies. Most prominent was Nadezhda Krupskaya because she was was Lenin�s wife. She was a respected Bolshevik with revolutionary credentials of her own. he had a special interest in . in her own right. She was her husband�s personal secretary and confidant, as well as a long-time advocate of women�s education. She met Inessa Armand, another female Bolshevik, while in exile. She was Secretary for the Committee of Foreign Organisations, coordinating the work of Bolshevik groups in exile. Alexandra Kollontai was pushing a feminist agenda of her own. After the Bolshvik seizure of power, they began pursuing issues concerning women and family life. They petitioned the Party to create a Committee dedicated to addres women's and family issues. The resulting comittee was Zhenodtel. Zhenodtel was active throughout the country, advocating some radical policies, including emancipation from housework and assistance to entering the workforce. Stalin who had traditional ideas about the family and barely tolerated Krupskaya put an end to Zhenodtel (1930). While Stalin ended radical reforms, the Bolsheviks put a major emphasis on education, including the education of women.


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Created: 4:56 AM 5/31/2019
Last updated: 4:56 AM 5/31/2019