Tony Cliff


Alexandra Kollontai: Russian Marxists
and Women Workers

(Autumn 1981)

From International Socialism 2:14, Autumn 1981, pp. 75–104. [1]
Transcribed by Marven Scott.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Over the last ten or so years two examples have been used by many who consider themselves socialist feminists to bolster their position of the need for a separate women’s organisation. One was the example of Clara Zetkin and the German socialist movement, the other that of the Russian Marxists and above all Alexandra Kollontai. That their description of the German socialist women’s stand was completely erroneous I tried to show in the last issue of International Socialism. Here we will deal with the position of the Bolsheviks and of Kollontai. It will become clear that the myths regarding Kollontai spread by a number of writers, notably Sheila Rowbotham, are completely unfounded. If anything, the Russian Marxists, including Kollontai, were even more intransigent opponents of women’s separatism in the socialist movement than the Germans.

To understand the position of Russian Marxists regarding the leadership and organisation of women proletarians, one has to grasp three interconnected aspects: firstly, the struggle between them and the bourgeois and petty bourgeois feminists over influencing working women; secondly, the relation of women socialists to the revolutionary party of the proletariat, and, finally, the bonds tying proletarian women to the socialists.

What is striking in the unfolding story is the similarity between many socialist feminists’ today and those of three generations ago in Russia. There is the same pandering to the estrangement of women and men, the same talk about ‘consciousness-raising’, about ‘personal politics’ the same mixture of utopianism and opportunism, and above all the same passivity.

There is also the Menshevik soft-pedalling of the difference between socialist women and bourgeois feminists, their readiness to co-operate with the latter, and to follow them in calling for the exclusion of male workers, notably from the meetings and demonstrations on International Women’s Day! As against this, stands the intransigence of the Bolsheviks and Kollontai to Menshevik conciliation.

The synchronisation of the rise and fall of the proletarian men and women runs through the story. The strikes of 1896, the mass rise of 1905, the catastrophic downturn of 1906–10, and again the rise of 1910–17, culminating with the revolution, is well paralleled – with the due difference of magnitude – in Britain in the upturn of 1970–74 and the downturn of the last few years!

Compared with the bourgeois and socialist women’s movement in Germany, which did battle with each other over a long period, in Russia both movements were much smaller in size, and had a much shorter life, but their conflicts were even sharper than in Germany.

The gentry feminists

Up to the revolution of 1905 there was not a women’s movement to speak of in Russia, although there existed groups of feminists, the history of which is well-documented in the best work on Russian feminism by R. Rothschild Goldberg. [2]

In 1855 Tsar Alexander II succeeded to the throne on the death of his father Nikolai I. One of his first steps was a declaration of intent to abolish serfdom which in 1861 he duly carried out. A major factor impelling the Tsar along this path was that serfdom had become a serious impediment to the development of the economy and weakened the power of the state, as became obvious in the poor showing of Russia in the Crimean War. A whole number of other reforms followed: local government was granted to the provinces and districts of European Russia, judicial institutions were reformed by the introduction of trial by jury for criminal cases, etc. These reforms from above, however truncated, inspired people to dream of other liberties. Among the people affected were the women of the nobility, and in 1859 a group of women gentry formed the first feminist group in Russia. [3] The group started publishing a magazine for women, called Razsvet (A Journal of Science, Art and Literature for Adult Women). Its first issue noted that women had ‘still not awakened from a prolonged sleep, and could not understand what they mean when they say that she must be a citizen’.

Razsvet was a very moderate publication, whose main aim was higher education for women. Even this it preached cautiously. In general, its goal was to show young women ‘that contemporary ideas are fully in accord with the spirit of Christian teachings.’ The publication was adjudged sufficiently safe in 1861 to be recommended to advanced students in schools under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Empress Marie. [4]

Only a tiny minority of Russian women could be interested in the fight for women’s right to higher education. In the 1860s, when the struggle began, no more than five or six per cent of the population was literate; by the 1880s, when the battle was renewed, the figure was ten per cent, and at the dawn of the new century, the figure rose to 21.1%. Only one per cent of the entire population had a higher education. [5] As late as 1909 only 0.3% of all girls were in secondary schools. [6] A historian of Russian feminism, R. Stites, stated:

A vast gulf separated aristocratic and educated women from thou of the middle classes, and an even wider gulf separated both from the world of the village. In the mid-nineteenth century, discussion of the woman question centred almost exclusively on the fate of the small stratum women of the educated elite. [7]

In the same year that Razsvet was published, devoting itself to women’s education, a women’s group was founded dedicated to philanthropy, called the Society for Cheap Lodging and Other Aid to the Needy Inhabitants of St. Petersburg. This group was destined to survive for many decades. Its most ambitious project, begun in 1868, was a good-sized clothing workshop. The shop, which could employ three to five hundred women workers, mostly filled orders from the War Ministry for uniforms. The organisation’s members used their connections to solicit orders.[8] In addition the Society organised communal kitchens and a school for working mothers. [9]

Other philanthropic causes were also espoused: hence the Society for Helping Needy Women, A Society for Circulating Useful Books, and a Society for Stimulating a Love for Work.

From these small beginnings of philanthropy came further developments. In 1893 the Russian Women’s Mutual Philanthropic Society was founded. [10] By 1900 it had about 2,000 members. It operated a sixty-room hostel for educated women, both with and without children, as well as a hostel for transients, a cafeteria and an employment service. Its children’s section supplied clothes and linen for poor children in the city, operated a child care centre for working women, and set up talks and gatherings on the ‘physical, intellectual and moral upbringing of children’. In addition, special, committees worked to aid victims of floods and famine. [11]

Another philanthropic society was founded in 1900 to counter prostitution. This was the Russian Society for the Protection of Women. Headed alternately by two princesses, Evgenii Oldenburgskaia and Elena Saksen-Altenburgskaia, it was well staffed by titled patricians and by wealthy philanthropists like Baron Ginsburg and Countess Panina. [12] ‘Fearful pity and hopeful piety,’ writes Stites, ‘were the main ingredients in the feminists’ attitude towards prostitutes, and their response was to care for the fallen women and to provide them with the spiritual strength to resist a return to the streets.’ However, ‘philanthropy as a cure for prostitution was a failure. The dull regimen of work and religious training in the shelters and the patronising care in the venereal wards merely served to hasten the women back into active duty again. At best the shelters reduced the number of prostitutes for a time by keeping some of them out of circulation and lowered the incidence of infection.’ [13]

Another cause that attracted feminists was temperance. A number of temperance societies was established. [14]

‘Traditional “charity” among Russian ladies was embellished by the conspicuous leadership of tsarinas, empress-dowagers and princesses. Activities usually were limited, refined and impersonal ...’ [15] Stites concludes.

Bourgeois and petty bourgeois feminists

1905, the year of the revolution, awakened millions of women, proletarian, bourgeois, and petty bourgeois. As Kollontai could write in retrospect: ‘In 1905 there was no corner in which in one way or another, the voice of a woman speaking about herself and demanding new rights was not heard.’ [16]

The first organised women’s political groups appeared in that revolutionary year. Those who founded the first Russian suffrage organisation were not members of the Mutual Philanthropic Society. Nor had they previously been particularly concerned with the woman question. Rather, it was women from the intelligentsia, often graduates of the women’s higher education courses, who became the country’s first suffragists. [17] In Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also in Minsk, Yalta, Saratov, Vilna and Odessa, residents witnessed the first public women’s rights meetings in Russia. [18]

Late in February 1905 a feminist political organisation was established, composed mainly of middle class women and ‘intelligentki‘, the Women’s Equal Rights Union. Leading members of this organisation had close ties with the Teachers’ Union.

Thus Emilia Orestovna Vakhterova, founder of a number of provisional Sunday schools, and contributor to several pedagogical journals, served on both the Central Bureau of the Women’s Equal Rights Union and the Central Regional Bureau of the Teachers’ Union. From time to time she also functioned as the secretary of the Teachers’ Union Moscow branch. (Vakhterova was married to the well-known educator V.P. Vakhterov founder of the Teachers’ Union.) Maria Aleksandrovna Chekhova, the daughter of a teacher, was herself a teacher and had established her own school. A veteran of the Sunday school movement and a famine volunteer in the 1890s, Chekhova was secretary of the Women’s Equal Rights Union from its inception, and later editor of its journal Soiuz zhenshchin (Union of Women). In addition to her Women’s Equal Rights Union work, she taught courses for workers and helped to organize the first Moscow children’s club. (She was married to N.V. Chekhov, another founder and leader of the Teachers’ Union.) [19]

Many of the leaders of the organisation were journalists, notably Zinaida Mirovich-Ivanovna and Anna Kalmanovich from Moscow, Liubov Gurevich and Mariia Chekhova from St. Petersburg. Their ranks were strengthened by the presence of two female members of the circles that became the Kadet Party – Anna Miliukova and Ariadna Tyrkova. [20]

The Women’s Equal Rights Union grew rapidly. In 1906 its membership reached 8,000. [21] By May 7 1905, when the First Organizational Congress convened in Moscow, twenty-six branches from nineteen cities and towns sent seventy delegates to the three-day meeting. More than three hundred women jammed the assembly-hall; a sizeable crowd was turned away. [22] At this meeting a number of working women put forward a resolution which emphasized the needs of industrial and peasant women, such as equal pay for equal work and welfare for mothers and children, but women of the bourgeoisie, who constituted the majority, rejected this proposal and put forward a resolution which called only for the unity of women of all social strata in the struggle for a republican form of government and universal suffrage without distinction of sex, nationality or religion. [23]

In addition the programme of the Women’s Equal Rights Union demanded national autonomy; equality of the sexes before the law; equal rights of peasant women in any land reforms; laws for the welfare, insurance and protection of women workers; equal opportunity for women; co-education at every level; reform of laws relating to prostitution; abolition of the death penalty. In other words this was a programme of radical bourgeois reform.

When the Second Congress of the Women’s Equal Rights Union convened on 8 October 1905, i.e., at the height of the revolution, it went as far as to call for the boycott of the Duma elections, thus following in the footsteps of the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and SRs. At the Congress members ‘recognised that the goals of the socialist parties were closest to those of women.’ Carrying a banner reading ‘Universal Suffrage With Distinction of Sex,’ Moscow Union members marched in the funeral demonstration for Nicholas Bauman, a Bolshevik murdered by the police. A Union member was wounded when police shot at the demonstrators. Though members did participate in other demonstrations and work on strike committees, much of their activity involved support work, such as establishing a number of soup kitchens, first aid stations and services for the unemployed. During clashes with the Black Hundreds, police, and the army, Union activists served as medical aides. [24]

The Women’s Equal Rights Union’s most militant phase paralleled the height of general revolutionary activity, from the October general strike to he Moscow uprising in December 1905. It was, however, a very loose organisation, and a number of its branches disregarded the call for a boycott of the Duma, and followed the Kadets. At the Third Congress of the Union, 21 May 1906, the boycott was lifted completely. [25]

Another bourgeois feminist organisation was founded in 1905 – the Women’s Progressive Party. Its leader was Dr. Maria Ivanovna Pokrovskaia. She represented the most extreme feminist separatism. From 1904 to 1917 Pokrovskaia spent a good deal of her time and money on the journal Zhenskii vestnik (Women’s Herald), editing and publishing it almost single-handedly from her apartment. Zhenskii vestnik was a forum for Pokrovskaia’s views on society and the woman question. Far more than other feminist journals, it consistently devoted space to the situation of women factory workers, domestic servants, prostitutes and peasants. Like the left feminists, Pokrovskaia believed that the success of the women’s rights cause would be due to the support of those who had no power or privilege:

It is clear that women aspiring to equal rights cannot place their hopes in the bourgeoisie and the aristocrats. The working people have experienced and experience now the full weight of lack of rights – these are the ones we can count on now. [26]

Pokrovskaia paid detailed attention to women workers, calling not only for general factory reform but specifically for women factory inspectors, a ten-month fully paid pregnancy leave, nursing facilities in the factories, and equal wages for equal work.

The Women’s Progressive Party was one of those Russian liberal groups whose outlook was far more social reformist than their opposite numbers in Europe. Its programme was radical, Utopian and pacifist, i.e., radical in words, but rather opportunistic in practical terms. It called for the ‘Elimination of the unfair distribution of wealth and the just payment of labour’, and improved public health measures, but was against protective legislation for women workers. A call for ‘the destruction of militarism’, the replacement of armies by militias, and ‘the unification of all the peoples of Russia in the name of general humanitarian ideas’, rounded out the Program, save for one important item. All this was to be accomplished while coming to terms with the Romanoffs – by reforming the monarchy, making constitutional! [27]

Unlike the socialists, Pokrovskaia objected to working class militancy, on the basis of both feminist and pacifist principles. She opposed strikes because of their consequences for women:

We ask: who bears the chief burden of the strike? the wife and mother. And under these circumstances men accuse women of conservatism, when the latter seek to dissuade men from participation in strikes. Let the men stay home with the hungry children during strikes, and let the women be free to leave the cries of hunger! [28]

Unlike the Women’s Equal Rights Union which admitted men into membership and cooperated with them, Pokrovskaia’s party excluded men. ‘Supporters of united action with men in the struggle for women’s rights lose sight of the fact that in many resolutions and projects of the future political order, women’s rights are completely omitted,’ wrote one of Pokrovskaia’s adherents. And she herself warned members of the new party that cooperation with men would mean advantages for men alone. ‘The question of a united front of the sexes was to become one of the major issues of Russian feminism,’ writes Stites. [29] Pokrovskaia ‘recognized the importance of economic factors, but rejected the Marxist socialist approach as too violent’. [30] Women, she wrote in 1905, at the time of the Moscow uprising, ‘know that it is not through violence and slaughter that we can recreate life but only through peaceful reform.’ She was a militant separatist. Men deprived women of political rights and made them economically dependent. Women could gain freedom only by forming separate organizations. If women wanted to learn necessary political and organizational skills free from male intimidation, they should form a separate political party [31], a conclusion she applied equally to the socialists.’

Her main thrust was anti-male, arising out of years of struggle against prostitution and its male clients and protectors. Thus her ‘feminism’ was more sexual than political and allowed her no sympathy for class struggle. ‘Every woman aspiring to equality,’ she wrote, ‘ought to be called a feminist – be she landowner or peasant, wife of the factory owner or working woman, privileged or not. For feminism there are no classes, legal castes, or educational levels. It is an idea which equalizes all.’ [32]

The Women’s Progressive Party attracted no more than a handful of members. Its adherents came from the middle or upper classes. Efforts to attract working women failed. Kollontai noted that the members’ behaviour, dress and conversation at meetings alienated proletarian women. [33]

The third bourgeois feminist organisation was the one we already mentioned, the Russian Women’s Mutual Philanthropic Society founded in 1895. Now, in the year of the revolution, it went mad on petitioning important individuals and institutions. In 1905 alone, the Society made 398 requests to zemstvos and 108 requests to municipal government for support of women’s rights, posted 6,000 appeals to different social and governmental agencies, and sent five governors-general, 80 governors and 46 marshals of the nobility petitions asking for their endorsement of equal rights. [34] ‘The Society, though caught in the spirit of the times, remained pretty much on the margin of the active suffrage struggle for the next two years,’ sums up Stites. [35]

Women in the Russian revolutionary movement

For the 1860s the most reliable list of revolutionary activists available (i.e. people arrested [36]) shows some 65 women in a total list of about 2,000, or about 3%. [37] In the 1870s the proportion of women was significantly higher, out of 5,664 revolutionaries arrested, about one-eighth being women. Like the men, the women in the movement were almost all between twenty and thirty. To a much greater extent than the men, they were of gentry origins – some 67% of those were deeply implicated in the years 1873 to 1877 – and at least four of them were daughters of generals. All but a handful had been given good to excellent educations, many of them in European and, after 1876, Russian universities. [38]

The proportion of women in the Populist movement was somewhere between 15 and 20%. [39] Within the Socialist Revolutionary Party, for example, for which the most comprehensive statistics can be found 14.3% of the membership between 1901 and 1916 was reported to be female. [40]

Women were heavily involved in carrying out terrorist missions where being female offered considerable tactical advantages. They also paid a high price for their activities: of forty-three sentences to life at hard labour for terrorist activities handed out between 1880 and 1890, twenty-one were given to women. [41]

Among the Marxists who became significant in the 1890s and beginning of this century the proportion of women was much smaller. Unfortunately the data are scanty. At the Sixth Party Congress of the Bolsheviks, August 1917, out of 171 delegates ten were women, or roughly 6%. The first comprehensive census of party members was not taken until 1922, and women then constituted just under 8% of the total membership of the Communist Party. [42] The Populist and terrorist movements, with their emphasis on individual heroic actions, attracted into them more women, largely of the intelligentsia, than the Marxists, and there they found it quite difficult to organise women.

Women and the industrial struggle

With the entry of the proletariat into the arena of industrial action women became active. Thus Kollontai tells the story of women workers’ industrial struggle between the 1870s and 1905:

The movement of women workers is by its very nature an indivisible part of the general workers’ movement; it is impossible to separate the one from the other. The working woman, as a member of the proletariat and a seller of labour power, moved with the working man every time he went into action to win his human rights. In all the risings and in all the factory riots which were so distasteful to Tsarism she took an equal part, alongside the working man.

Thus the movement of working women begins with the first signs of an awakening class consciousness among the Russian proletariat and with the first attempts to achieve, by strikes and direct action, more bearable and less humiliating living conditions.

Working women played an active role in the unrest at the Krengol’mskaya factory in 1874; women were involved in the 1878 strike at the Nevaya Pryadil’na factory in St. Petersburg, and in 1885 they led the textile workers in that famous strike in Orekhovo-Zuyevo, when the factory buildings were destroyed and the tsarist government was forced to hurry through, on 3 July, a law banning night work for women and young people.

The ‘April Rebellion’ of 1895 at the Yaroslav factory was carried out with the help and under the influence of the women weavers. The women workers of St. Petersburg did not desert their comrades during the sporadic economic strikes of 1894–96, and when the historic strike of textile workers broke out in the summer of 1896 the women workers joined the men in a unanimous walk-out.

At a time of unrest and strike action the proletarian woman, downtrodden, timid and without rights, suddenly grows and learns to stand tall and straight. The self-centred, narrow-minded and politically backward ‘female’ becomes an equal, a fighter and a comrade. This transformation is unconscious and spontaneous, but it is important and significant because it reveals the way in which participation in the workers’ movement brings the woman worker towards her liberation, not only as the seller of her labour power but also as a woman, a wife, a mother and a housekeeper.

Kollontai does not glorify the proletarian woman. She paints them, warts and all. She notices their lack of perseverance and the weakness of the political socialist element among them:

A sound class instinct drew working women to support strikes, and often they were responsible for initiating and carrying out industrial action. But since women had as yet no sufficient organisation or channels of communication, as soon as the wave of strike activity died down and the workers returned to work whether in victory or in defeat, the women would be scattered and isolated once again. In those days women in the illegal party organisations were few and far between. The active members of the underground organisations in those years were women of the intelligentsia, not working women. It was only rarely that a factory girl could be persuaded to attend an illegal meeting. Neither did working women visit the Sunday evening classes held on the outskirts of St. Petersburg which were the only ‘legal possibilities’ in these times, the only way the broad mass of workers could make contact with the ideas of marxism and revolutionary socialism, presented under the guise of harmless lessons in geography and arithmetic. The working women were still avoiding life and struggle, believing that their destiny was the cooking pot, the washtub and the cradle ...

Things improved radically with the revolution of 1905: women entered the arena of struggle en masse. Kollontai writes:

The picture changes swiftly once the red flag of revolution is hoisted high above Russia. The revolutionary year of 1905 had a profound effect on the working masses. For the first time the Russian worker sensed his strength and understood that the well-being of the nation rested on his shoulders. In the revolutionary years of 1905 and 1906 the woman worker also became aware of the world around her. She was everywhere. If we wanted to give a record of how women participated in that movement, to list the instances of their active protest and struggle, to give full justice to the self-sacrifice of the proletarian women and their loyalty to the ideals of socialism, we would have to describe the events of revolution scene by scene. [43]

In spite of this tremendous upsurge in 1905, women still lagged behind men. One measure of this backwardness was the share women took in the trade unions compared with their proportion in industry.

Women made up a far greater part of the industrial proletariat than in Western Europe. In Moscow province in 1897, 40.8% of all textile workers were women, in Vladimir Province 42.9%, and in St. Petersburg 46.2%. [44] The number and proportion of women in the industrial labour force rose continuously. A special fillip was given by the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5. While women made up 24.4% of the labour force in the so-called inspected industries in 1887, and 17.1% in 1900, their share in 1914 rose to 39.7%. [45]

The Bolsheviks, as well as the Mensheviks and SRs, did their best to attract women into the trade unions. The leaders of the Bolshevik-dominated textile unions of the Moscow region, for example, at their first regional conference in February 1906, noted that ‘in the textile industry women are a very significant part, at times the overwhelming majority o workers, and that women’s labour increases day by day.’ They further considered that ‘the only solution to the problems of improving the position of the working class in general, and of women in particular, is organization of the proletariat.’ Given that ‘women, because of their economic and domestic situation, are much less capable of defending themselves against the bondage and exploitation of capital,’ the conference proposed that ‘all measures be taken to attract women on an equal basis with men into unions and all other workers’ organisations.’

Strike demands throughout 1905–7 more often than not reflected women workers’ needs. There is scarcely a strike document in industries employing women that does not mention, in some form, demands for paid maternity leave (usually four weeks before and six weeks after childbirth), for time off for feeding infants, and for construction of nurseries at the factory,’ writes R.L. Glickman in an essay on Russian women factory workers in the years 1890–1914. [46]

Unlike Britain, where male craft trade unionists excluded women (and unskilled men) for generations, or Germany where women were kept out of the unions for nearly a generation, in Russia from the beginning the doors of the unions were wide open to women. But the difficulties of organising them were extreme.

First there was the low level of culture. Thus in 1908, while 72.5% of men in the textile industry were literate, only 25.3% of women were. [47] To be sure, more women workers than women in the total population of Russia were literate, just as more men workers than men in the total population were literate. In 1897, only 13.1% of all women in Russia were literate, whereas 21.3% of factory women were. The comparable figures for men in 1897 were 29.3% for the total population and 56.5% for the factory population respectively. [48]

In addition women’s low incomes compared with men (in 1913 women’s earnings in manufacturing were about half of men’s [49]), the double burden (of being both workers and housewives), also impeded women. Furthermore women were conditioned to be submissive, to lack confidence in themselves. One woman worker expressed the feelings of women workers toward participation in workers’ groups:

Well, I do want to express myself, but then I think it over – so many people, they will all be looking at me and what if someone laughs at what I say. I grow cold with these thoughts, I’m filled with terror. So – you will silently, but your heart inflamed. [50]

Police persecution affected the weaker section of the proletariat – women – even more than men.

The result was a very low level of trade union organisation of women – even lower than that of men – and Russian trade unions in general lagged behind the levels achieved in West and Central Europe. Union organisation in Russia in those industries which employed many women was particularly backward. Thus in 1907 only 1.2% of garment workers and 3.9% of textile workers were members of trade unions, as against’ print workers and 8.6% of engineers. [51] In addition, in industries female labour was very common the proportion of women among those organised was very low indeed. Thus in Moscow, for example, women made up only 4.4% of trade union membership in textiles. Women workers were somewhat better represented in the rest of the central industrial region, and especially in St. Petersburg, but still their proportion among trade union members was very low. [52]

When it came to the Soviets that arose in 1905, women were again under represented. While they made up about two-fifths of the Petersburg proletariat, when it came to the Soviet, elected on the basis of one delegate-per 500 workers, out of 562 members only 6 were women. [53]

Marxists and bourgeois feminists in the wake of the 1905 revolution

It was only in 1905, when the government retreated before the rising popular unrest, that the possibility of large scale organisation of working women became a reality. It was only then that Russian Marxists turned to systematic working and thinking about methods of work among proletarian women.

However, when they tried to organise working women on a big scale, they found themselves in sharp competition with bourgeois feminists.

Because by and large women were latecomers to the struggle compared with men, because they were more backward, because they had greater difficulty in organising, they found themselves more profoundly influenced by bourgeois women’s organisations than men workers were by the liberal party of the Kadets. As a matter of fact the influence of the latter among male factory workers was practically nil.

The bourgeois feminists made an effort to attract working women, and to start with were not unsuccessful. Thus in 1905 in St. Petersburg they formed four women’s political clubs specially aimed at working women. The clubs functioned for nearly two months before they were closed by the police. [54]

Many working women resisted recruitment by Social Democrats organisers. A group from the Andreev factory in Moscow requested that the local branch of the Women’s Equal Rights Union send some feminist agitators, as the Social Democrats had proved ‘too severe’. Sometimes Social Democratic Party organisers worked with feminists. In one case male social-democrat organizing women workers used feminist literature and received Women’s Equal Rights Union help and advice. [55]

Proletarian women came to feminist meetings and invited speakers from the Women’s Equal Rights Union to their factories. [56]

But though groups organised by the bourgeois feminists rose quite quickly they also disintegrated rapidly. One reason was the abyss between the bourgeois and petty bourgeois ladies on the one hand an proletarian women on the other.

Take the case of the maids. In Moscow, a group of maids approached the Women’s Equal rights Union for help in organizing, and Moscow branch members helped to establish a servants’ union. Servants’ organizations were also formed in Vladimir, Penza and Kharkov. S.K. Ispolatova, a member of the Women’s Equal Rights Union’s Central Bureau, reported that her cook, also a Union member, organized servants’ meetings, usually held in her kitchen. Ispolatova led these meetings. When the servants’ meetings grew too large, they were moved to the staircase of the servants’ entrance. Servants’ meetings remained in the servants’ quarters. [57]

Kollontai, commenting on the efforts to organise the maids, wrote:

They tried to construct an idyllic, mixed union of grand-lady employers and domestic servants ... They strove to organise domestic servants under the vigilant eyes of their mistresses. [58]

In Kharkov the local branch of the Women’s Equal Rights Unionised a special committee to study the situation of domestic servants. To point up ‘the unacceptability of a project worked out with the close participation and leadership of their employers,’ the Kharkov social-democrats called special servants’ meetings. At these meetings, the servants developed their own proposal, including a minimum wage, a standard working day and a day off. The majority of servants welcomed this project; the majority of feminists were, according to Kollontai, ‘disappointed.’

The bourgeois feminists quite quickly came to the conclusion that their efforts to organise proletarian women had failed, and so they changed tack. Members of the Women’s Equal Rights Union decided to limit their activities among working women to general propaganda efforts, such as talks at Sunday schools, workers’ courses and at individual factories, work at cafeterias and soup kitchens, and signature gathering for petitions. [59]

Social Democratic women intervened in meetings organised by the Women’s Equal Rights Union for proletarian women. But not all socialists were united in their attitude to the Women’s Equal Rights Union. The SRs and Menshevik women, Kollontai noted, believed in the need to create a broadly based alliance including socialists and liberal women. [60]

The Bolsheviks, as well as Kollontai who at that time did not belong to them, opposed this. Kollontai was one of the most articulate and vociferous opponents of this idea of an alliance. In 1905 she agreed with Lenin’s view that ‘you cannot serve two gods at the same time. You cannot be a member of two parties.’ She argued for the maintenance of ‘strict class lines’ and the organisation of proletarian women with the Social Democratic movement. [61]

Writing a few years after 1905, Kollontai put the alternatives facing proletarian women clearly:

Should working women heed the call of the feminists and take an active part in the struggle for the liberation of women, or must they remain true to the traditions of the class and fight for the emancipation not of women alone, but of all humanity from the servitude imposed by contemporary capitalist society? [62]

She answered the question unequivocally: proletarian women should join trade unions and political organisations with proletarian men and oppose the feminists totally. She always referred to the word ‘feminist’ in a derogatory way. Thus she defined: ‘Feminism – the struggle of bourgeois women to unite, to rely on one another and thus to rebuff the common enemy – men. [63]

During 1905 she attended many feminist meetings in order to denounce their leaders and call on women workers to separate themselves from their influence. She did not have a smooth passage. At a large feminist public meeting in April 1905, her objections to an alliance between socialists and feminists were met with merciless heckling. Cries of ‘Hooliganism!’ and ‘You play into the hands of the Black Hundreds!’ filled the air. The writer Krandievskaia called out, ‘Strangling is too good for you!’ [64]

To organise proletarian women, some Social-Democratic women, Bolsheviks as well as Mensheviks, tried to establish clubs for working women. But there was some opposition to their efforts. Thus Vera Zasulich, the old heroic Narodnik, subsequently a founding member of the Marxist Emancipation of Labour group, considered such efforts, according to Kollontai, ‘unnecessary if not harmful.’ [65]

Kollontai’s first attempt to have a meeting of women workers sanctioned by the party’s Petersburg committee met the following fate: though the party had promised to provide a meeting place, when Kollontai and several workers arrived, they found a sign on the door reading, ‘The meeting for women only has been cancelled. Tomorrow there will be a meeting for men only.’ [66]

No wonder there was resistance to building women’s clubs. Experience of organising working women over many years showed meagre results which were not sustainable. Even Kollontai, despite the myth spread by many including herself, came to the idea of organising women very late in the day after the 1905 revolution. She started building the clubs only when the revolution was well on the retreat, in 1907. She wrote in later years: ‘Women and their fate have occupied my whole life. It was their lot which pushed me into socialism.’ The historian, R. Stites, made the following apt comment on these words: ‘There is no evidence in Kollontai’s early life to support this assertion.’ [67] As a matter of fact Kollontai, many years later, wrote: ‘At the beginning of the autumn of 1907 [for the first time – TC] I applied myself earnestly to the task of organising women workers in Petersburg.’ [68]

Although Kollontai first joined the Marxists in 1896, even as late as 1905 her writings, had nothing in them about women. She did not undertake organisational work among women until the winter of 1905. Several years later she came to the conclusion that she could make a contribution to the socialist movement on the issue of how to approach working women. Her first work on the subject was written in 1908, Social Basis of the Women’s Question.

The actual results of establishing proletarian women’s clubs were very small indeed. The first socialist sponsored club for the female proletariat opened in St. Petersburg in the autumn of 1907, near the headquarters of the Textile Workers’ Union. Called the Working Women’s Mutual Aid Society, its organisers included both Kollontai and a group of women workers. The club was legal and it got charter approval in only a month an a half. Its activities included lectures and a library. It was open every night and had between 200 and 300 members (of whom about two-thirds women and one-third men). The Mutual Aid Society was deliberately not identified with any faction: both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks attended functions.

In the spring of 1908 bitter factional infighting tore the club apart. One very vociferous group wanted to exclude all ‘intelligentki’. Kollontai, as one of the ‘intelligentki’, dropped out. [69]

While all the working women’s clubs in St. Petersburg dissolved by the end of 1908, fifteen workers’ clubs which included men and women in their membership survived. They had some 6,000 members in all, of which 15–20% were women. These women were overwhelmingly young (about two-third of them below the age of 25) and literate. (In the two clubs for which there is information, one had a rate of literacy for the women of 96.6%, the other 99.5%. [70])

A new, serious test of socialist women’s relationship with bourgeois feminists on the one hand and proletarian women on the other, came towards the end of 1908.

The First All-Russian Women’s Congress

As the revolutionary tide subsided, so did the activity of the women’s movement. A final attempt to revitalise it was the First All-Russian Women’s Congress, held in December 1908.

Members of the Russian Mutual Philanthropic Society and of the Women’s Equal Rights Union who had joined together to plan and organise the Congress, hoped that a new unified women’s organisation would result. Anna Filosofova, one of the veteran founders of feminism in Russia, now in her seventies, ‘especially wanted to cap her years of feminist activity by the creation of a National Council of Russian Women, ‘How,’ she asked members of the Congress, ‘… can we gain political and social rights and influence, if we ourselves cannot unite and mobilize women’s power.’ [71]

The Congress slogan was: ‘The women’s movement must be neither bourgeois nor proletarian, but one movement for all women.’ It took nearly a year to organise. The Bolsheviks were against, but the Mensheviks in favour, of holding it. The Bolsheviks could not, however, boycott it as working women were enthusiastic about it, which was natural in the circumstances of the retreat and reaction of the whole movement at the time.

In the autumn the textile workers set up an organizing committee, contacted other unions, and finally won the full endorsement of the St. Petersburg Central Bureau of the Trade Unions. The organizing committee consisted of members of the sales clerks, typographers, seamstresses, bookkeepers, clerks and confectioners’ unions, in addition to the textile workers. Later, delegates from workers’ clubs also joined. [72]

No doubt the continued worker interest in the Congress influenced the Bolshevik decision to participate. One Bolshevik man who attended the Congress wrote later of the pre-Congress ‘illusions’:

Every woman worker wanted to lay out her stored-up sorrows before this Congress, ‘before the entire proletariat’. Though we said many times, that this Congress ‘would give us nothing’, that ‘we are going only for agitation’, all the same we could see the illusions on the delegates’ faces.

To expose these ‘illusions’ the Bolsheviks still wanted to keep participation in the Congress to a minimum. At first they urged the workers simply to ‘go to the Congress, show your banner, and march home!’ But when this too did not dampen the enthusiasm, the Bolsheviks conceded that the delegates should take part but only to articulate the social-democratic Position. Again, if demands were refused, they proposed a public walkout. In a resolution presented for approval to the RSDLP Central Committee, the Bolsheviks advocated showing ‘the principled gulf between the Congress and its proletarian elements; the social-democratic group will demonstrate this gulf in relation to all the questions discussed by the Congress.’ This resolution did not pass. The Mensheviks opposed it then they left the meeting and thus destroyed the quorum. [73]

The involvement of Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and SRs in preparing proletarian women to participate in the Congress did not, however, succeed in involving many. According to Kollontai, between 500 and 650 proletarian women attended over 50 meetings in private homes, union halls, evening schools for workers and workers’ clubs to organise delegates for the Congress. Attendance ranged from three (two women and a young girl) to 150. [74]

As a result of these efforts, a Workers’ Group was created. It consisted of a few Bolsheviks, some Socialist Revolutionaries, some Mensheviks number of unaffiliated women, of intellectuals and workers. In no way was it a united block. Kollontai differentiated three basic positions within the group. The Bolsheviks, as has been mentioned, wanted to cut to a minimum cooperation with the feminists, and to leave the Congress as soon as possible. The ‘revisionists’ argued the opposite, against alienating the democratic elements of the Congress and for creating a general democratic alliance. The third group, including Kollontai, insisted on clarifying the contradictions between the feminists and the socialists on all basic points of the woman question. [75]

The Bolshevik-controlled Petersburg Committee of the RSDLP, Kollontai recalled, named two delegates for the Workers’ Group, V. Slutskaia, formerly a vigorous opponent of participation, and P.F. Kudelli. In addition, they appointed a ‘Comrade Sergei’ as leader of the Workers’ Group. [76]

When the Women’s Congress did convene on 10 December at St. Petersburg City Hall it became clear that proletarian women were a tiny minority – 45 out of 1,053 delegates. [77]

There were three groups at the Congress. On the stage, behind a long table, ‘comfortably seated in two rows of chairs’, sat the members of the organizing committee, ‘typical Petersburg “lady-patronesses”, “cream” of the Petersburg and provincial aristocracy and bourgeoisie, the wives of ministers, high officials, factory owners, merchants, well-known lady-philanthropists.’ [78]

On the other side of the hall, sharply contrasting with the women on the platform, were a small group of women workers. But by far the largest group, filling the hall and overflowing into the corridor, was distinct from both the ladies and the workers. Many wore badges identifying them as women doctors. They were clearly members of the intelligentsia, women affluent enough to afford the five rouble registration fee.

This impression is confirmed by the statistical data available on congress participants. This data cannot be considered definitive, since it only applies to 243 of the 1053 people officially listed as members of the Congress, and excludes most of the workers who had left the congress before the questionnaire was distributed. A majority of those responding were between the ages of thirty and fifty (60%; 27% were younger and 13% older). Most were married (59%); 28% were unmarried, 12% were widows, and only 1 % were in ‘free marriages’. More than half had finished secondary school (54%); 30% had higher education; 16% had only the equivalent of a grammar school education. Over half had their own careers; but a sizeable minority (42%) either did not indicate their own work, or more likely were not engaged in paid work. Of women who did have their own careers, those in the ‘free professions’ (doctors, teachers, writers, artists) predominated (75%). Of the remainder, 14% were employed in public or private institutions; 11% were either students or workers. Of those who were married, the majority had spouses who were professionals – doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, teachers. [79]

One reason for the small number of proletarian women present was that the congress was held during working hours.

Again and again class conflicts erupted. In response to a call by S.I. Mirevich, a leading member of the Women’s Equal Rights Union, for unity fin unity there is strength. Unity is possible only on the basis of complete lack of party affiliation.’, the Bolshevik Anna Gurevich retorted:

Women of different groups and classes of the population need different rights and must fight in different ways and their organizations must be different. Women workers must fight for all the needs of the working class. [80]

One member of the Workers’ Group stated: ‘Working women are fighting for their full rights ... for their liberation as workers and as women, in contrast to bourgeois equal rights.’ [81] Bourgeois women were content merely to throw off the legal shackles which disabled them, while continuing to exploit the working class (particularly their maids). Marxists sought to destroy the ‘single master of contemporary life – capital.’ [82]

The most comprehensive statement of the differences between the socialist and feminist positions can be found in Kollontai’s talk, The Woman Worker in Contemporary Society, delivered to the Congress on 15 December.

‘The woman question,’ say the feminists, is a question of ‘rights and justice.’ ‘The woman question,’ answer the proletarian women, is a question of a ‘piece of bread.’ The awakening of woman, the development of her special needs and demands, will come only as she joins the army of the independent laboring population. And this army is growing ceaselessly ... At the same time that the bourgeois woman is still huddled in her domestic shell, prospering at the expense of her husband and father, the proletarian woman already bears the heavy cross of wage labour. [83]

There is no independent woman question; the woman question arose as an integrated component of the social process of our time. The liberation of woman as a member of society, a worker, an individual, a wife, and a mother, is possible therefore only together with the solution of the general social question, with the fundamental transformation of the present social order. [84]

One feminist underlined the differences between her wing of the Congress and the Workers’ Group with some honesty:

The two principal modes of human activity are individual and collective. People like feminists, possessing greater scope, time, and the means to express themselves in action, do so, hoping to leave their personal stamp upon the activity they have engaged in. This, at bottom, was the underlying impulse of feminism.

The socialists put the emphasis on collective action. [85]

Another feminist leader, Olga Shapir, stated: ‘As far as unity ... I regard it as impossible in a class society. I regard the constant appeals of the Worker’s Party for disunity as useful in forcing us to renounce a vain hope.’ Olga Shapir therefore suggested that the movement should concentrate on the inner emancipation of women through the ‘raising of consciousness’ (a phrase used frequently by feminists at that time) to free them from the shackles of slave mentality. [86]

On the last day of the Congress the Workers’ Group staged a demonstrative exit, making it clear that no cooperation could be maintained between the workers and the capitalists. The impact of the gesture, however, was blunted, because while the Bolsheviks left the congress, the Mensheviks stayed on, leaving some time later in the day. [87]

After the Congress was over, the organizational committee

ejected working women ... arranged ... a noisy banquet in the luxurious restaurant Kontan – and there the excessive celebration and triumphal cries of lady-philanthropists were unexpectedly broken off by their confusion r loud question from a Bolshevik woman: ‘Why aren’t there working worn peasant women, and maids at this table?’ [88]

In the aftermath of the Congress, the conciliatory attitude of the Mensheviks towards bourgeois feminists, in contrast to the intransigence of the Bolsheviks and Kollontai stood out sharply. In the columns of the Menshevik press two positions were put, one by Kollontai, the other by representatives of the Mensheviks majority.

The Congress had decisively shown, Kollontai wrote, ‘that class antagonism, that opposition of socio-economic interests divides the world of women as it does that of men into two hostile camps ...’ It had, she claimed decisively convinced women workers of the futility of unity with women of other classes.

Another article in the Menshevik paper, written by W., criticized the Workers’ Group’s heavy emphasis on economic questions, and insistence on ‘demarcation’ of class boundaries: ‘Conjectures about the possibility of even temporary, momentary alliances with the entire Congress or its majority, did not arise at all; any hints about that possibility were considered heresy or Utopian.’ W. condemned the heavy concentration of Bolsheviks in the leadership of the Workers’ group. Many women at the Congress, W. stated, had expressed sympathy with the workers by their applause, in private conversations and in promises to vote with the proletarian group, but these openings were not developed largely because of the extremism of the Workers’ Group. Thus the workers made it hard, if not impossible, for a genuine coalition of Left and Liberal elements to develop. In this way, they failed to comprehend the socio-political significance of the assembly, ‘broke the vital threads’ of common, if temporary, political interests linking them with the democratic element and created the impression of being against the entire women’s movement. They made it seem as if socialism was the only way to cure social ills.

The Menshevik editors added a comment after the two articles, basically agreeing with W. and chiding Kollontai. [89]

Reaction and the revival of the labour movement

1907–1910 were years of harsh reaction. [90] When the proletariat as a whole suffered a series of terrible defeats, the female section of it was punished worse.

But after five long years the retreat came to an end. [91] The upward movement of the class involved women workers too. Large-scale women’s strikes took place, very militant and very well organised.

The ‘first gleam’ of the renewed workers’ movements was manifested in Moscow textile industry in the spring of 1910, and textiles continued to contribute a very large number of participants in the strike movement until the war ... Since women constituted over half of the employees in most niches of the textile industry, it is not surprising that their earliest activity occurred in spinning, weaving and lace-making factories.

As one historian, A. Bobroff, wrote in an essay on the Bolsheviks and working women in the years 1905–1920:

Before long ... strikers began to develop organizational skills, a determination not to return to work until genuine gains were won, and a willingness of women and men to support each other. It was not uncommon for a women’s section of a plant to strike, and then to gain the support of other workers, including men, who would walk out in sympathy. For example, in October 1910, the administration at the Teikov textile factory increased the work load among the women in the water frame workshop. Even under the former conditions this work has been ‘most difficult’, resulting in two deaths from overwork. In addition, ‘the extremely unceremonious treatment of them by the administration stirred up discontent among the women.’ The women struck and were subsequently joined by the weavers, spinners, and ultimately all 5,000 workers in the factory.

In late 1913, 5,500 workers, the majority women, struck at the Riga rubber factory. ‘And disturbances at the Khludovsky textile factory were renewed following settlement of a walk-out by 5,000 employees when three women were dismissed on suspicion of having incited the workers to strike.’ Another strike of 3,000 took place in a Moscow pastry and perfume factory of which two-thirds were women. [92] A commentator wrote:

During the 47-day strike at the Palia textile factory in the summer of 1913, two thousand workers, predominantly women, are displaying a steadfastness and determination unusual even in the present strike period. Women also manifested an ability to organize and maintain strikes. Specific demands were formulated, ranging from wage increases to paid pregnancy leave, use of the factory owner’s bath house and laundry facilities.

Perhaps the most interesting development in the female strike movement during the 1910–14 period was the growth of consciousness among working women of their own needs as women. They would no longer accept rudeness and sexual exploitation by foremen and employers. And they also set forth strike demands relating to their particular needs. Strikes frequently began when women refused to tolerate the sexual abuse which was endemic. At the Grisov factory in Moscow in 1913 a strike began because ‘The attitude of the factory administration is revolting. There is no other word for it than prostitution.’ Among the demands was one for polite treatment of working women in particular, with prohibition of swearing. The immediate cause of the 1911 strike of 5,000 workers at the Khludovsky factory of Yartsev was the ‘indelicate treatment’ of women workers by one of the foremen, whose offences were even documented by the factory inspector. The strike demands included the dismissal of this foreman. At a plywood factory in Riga women worked with glue prepared from blood, curds, cement and lime. The glue stank terribly and ate away at their hands. But a second cause for discontent was that several foremen were ‘not ashamed to curse in the most obscene words even to women.’

Demands were often made which related to the problems of pregnant women and mothers. For example, at the Bek textile factory the strikers demanded a pregnancy leave of six weeks and the abolition of the practice of firing pregnant women. These demands were won. The striking Mal’tesva weavers made the same demands, adding that women should receive half pay during the period when they were not working. The policy of pregnancy in 1913 demanded that pregnant women be relieved of having to carry or lift heavy weights. They also called for two one-hour breaks each day for mothers to nurse their babies. At another Moscow factory, where 1,000 workers were on strike, a demand was made that the administration end its policy of not hiring married women. [93]

International Women’s Day

An International Women’s Day was held on 8 March every year since 1911 in a number of countries. The first time the event was observed in Russia was in 1913. It was not held on 8 March but a little earlier, on 17 February, because of fear of police interference. To commemorate the day a special six-page issue of Pravda was published. It contained articles about women workers, the significance of International Women’s Day for the socialist movement, and pictures of leading revolutionary women like Clara Zetkin, Eleanor Marx, and Vera Zasulich. [94]

Celebrations took place in five cities: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Samara and Tblisi. The largest celebration was in St. Petersburg. It was organised by a group of women textile workers and Bolshevik activists such as K.N. Samoilova and P.F. Kudelli, who were part of a special holiday committee set up by the Bolshevik-controlled Petersburg Committee of the RSDLP. The main meeting of the day was held in the great Hall of the Kalashnikov Exchange. The Police were there in full force. At the entrance both mounted and regular patrols were stationed. Inside, police occupied the first two rows. Exactly at one o’clock, they closed the doors of the hall and would not allow even those with tickets to enter. Despite this, over one thousand people managed to crowd into the hall. One of the main speakers, a textile worker, Ianchevskaia, summed up the meaning of the assembly thus: ‘the women workers’ movement is a tributary flowing in the great river of the proletarian movement and giving it strength.’ [95]

These words and the general spirit of International Women’s Day grated on the nerves of the bourgeois feminist Dr. Pokrovskaia. She wrote:

As we expected, the women workers’ day did not protest at all against the subordinate position of wives in relation to their husbands. They spoke primarily of the enslavement of the proletarian woman by capital, and only in passing mentioned domestic subservience ... Does personal freedom really have such paltry significance in the eyes of proletarian women that it is not even worth talking about? That is inconceivable! When that same proletarian woman sets up her own women’s day, she will give voice to protest against such laws, her resentment of them, and demand t abolition. At the meeting Mme Kudelii was wrong in asserting economic interests are the most important for the woman worker. Personal freedom stands higher. The pet rooster is always full, and the wild eagle is often hungry. All the same, we prefer eagles. [96]

Her conclusion was simple: all men benefited from male privilege; women must join together to fight it.

In 1914 it was decided to celebrate International Women’s Day with large open meetings in the larger workers’ quarters of St. Petersburg. Unfortunately these plans were blocked by the authorities. Ten meetings were requested, but the Government granted only one.

On the 23 February extra detachments of police were on the streets; there a large crowd at the one legal meeting; instead of five speakers there were only two. The others had been arrested on that day, and the police had forbidden substitutes. Many of those present, disappointed and angry, spilled out into the streets, singing revolutionary songs, but they were eventually dispersed by the police, who carried out mass arrests.

Both in 1913 and 1914 deep differences manifested themselves between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks regarding the celebration of International Women’s Day. The Mensheviks wanted only women to participate in the celebrations, while the Bolsheviks insisted that International Women’s Day should be celebrated not only by working women but the entire working class. [97]

During the war it was far more difficult to celebrate International Women’s Day. In 1915 and 1916, despite a government ban, the day was commemorated by small meetings and celebrations.


Early in January 1913, the Bolshevik daily, Pravda, began publishing a special section entitled Labour and the Life of the Working Woman which gave information about all the meetings and rallies to be held in preparation for International Women’s Day and all the resolutions passed. [98] Pravda also started a working woman’s page. Working women wrote to Pravda about their problems and opinions, and their letters were printed as often as space permitted. By the winter of 1913, however, the newspaper was receiving more correspondence than it could handle. This led Lenin to the conclusion that another journal aimed specifically at proletarian women was necessary at this time and at his suggestion, the foreign Bureau of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party decided to publish such a journal. It was entitled Rabotnitsa (The Working Woman). Writing from abroad to his elder sister, Anna Ulianova-Elizarova, Lenin suggested that she organize the publication of the journal and select the editorial board. Her selections, which were confirmed by the Central Committee, were divided into two groups, one residing in Russia and one in exile abroad. The first group included P.F. Kudelli, K.N. Samoilova, L. Menzhinskaia and Anna U’lianova-Elizarova herself. The second, in exile, was Inessa Armand, Nadezhda Kupskaya, Lilina Zinovieva and Liudmila Stal, who were scattered in various places of exile.

The resident editors were to be responsible for the publication of the journal, as well as for any organisational work connected with its Publication. To finance the first issue of Rabotnitsa, the members of the editorial board residing in Russia took on sewing jobs. A number of women workers reacted with enthusiasm to Pravda‘s appeal for funds for Rabotsnita. A typical note, signed by a group of thirty working women, said:

‘… warm greetings to our journal Rabotnitsa. We are sure that it will be a true spokesman of our needs and interests and we promise you our constant moral and material encouragement. We are contributing 2 roubles and 74 kopeks to the journal fund.’ [99]

Krupskaya drew up the following general outline for the layout of journal:

  1. Lead article – current politics.
  2. The workers’ movement and the participation of working women in different areas of it (political and economic struggle, insurance campaign, co-operatives).
  3. Conditions of work for women in factories, in workshops saleswomen and in domestic labour. The position of servants and others.
  4. The protection of women’s labour.
  5. Labour and women’s news.
  6. Foreign affairs (the struggle of working women abroad).
  7. The family and the working woman. [100]

The proposed paper suffered a terrible blow a few days before the printing of the first issue: all the members of the Russian editorial board with the exception of Lenin’s sister Anna were arrested, and the majority of the articles for the issue confiscated by the police. Anna Ulianova-Elizarova persevered, and after a great deal of effort she finally managed to find a printer who consented to publish the journal. 12,000 copies of the first issue did appear as planned on International Women’s Day. [101]

The lead article, written by Krupskaya, drew a sharp line between Bolshevism and bourgeois feminism:

In recent times here in Russia, the question of the organisation of working women has become one of the most burning and vital questions. All over Russia the insurance campaign is unfolding, stirring even the backward strata of workers. Life puts Russian working men and working women face to face with the so-called ‘woman’ question. Only the woman question among workers develops in quite a different way and bears quite a different character than it does among the bourgeoisie.

Bourgeois women advocate their special ‘women’s rights’, they always oppose themselves to men and demand their rights from men. For them contemporary society is divided into two main categories, men and women. Men possess everything, hold all rights. The question is one of achieving equal rights.

For working women the woman question becomes quite different. The politically conscious women see that contemporary society is divided into classes. Each class has its special interests. The bourgeoisie is in one, and working class the other. Their interests are counterposed. The division between men and women does not have great importance in the eyes of the working woman. That which unites the working women with the working man is much stronger than that which divides them. They are united by their common lack of rights, their common need, their common conditions which are the exploitation of their labour, their common struggle and the common goals. ‘All for one, one for all.’ This ‘all’ means members of working class – men and women alike.

The ‘woman question’ for working men and women – this question about how to involve the backward masses of working women organisation, how better to make clear to them their interests, how to make them comrades in the common struggle quickly. The solidarity between working men and women, the common cause, the common goal, and the common path to those goals. Such is the solution for the ‘woman question’ among workers.

Rabotnitsa will elucidate everything occurring in the country from the point of view of the working class. It will awaken in the consciousness of working women the great goals of liberation for the workers’ movement and will call for a struggle for these great goals.

Rabotnitsa will tirelessly repeat the necessity for organisation, will call upon working women to join workers’ organisations, and will make them active members.

In a word, our journal strives to help working women become conscious and organised. [102]

Rabotnitsa dealt with a wide range of women’s concerns: maternity insurance, female labour, child-care centres, hygiene information, the problems of working women and the family, children’s stories, Women’s Day, electoral rights for women.

Seven issues of Rabotnitsa were published between 23 February and 26 June 1914, when it ceased publication because of the impossible obstacles imposed by the outbreak of the war. Of the seven issues, two were confiscated by the police.

Against separatism

Women workers suffer double burdens. They are paid less than men, are culturally more deprived and have to both hold down a job and be a housewife.

Does extreme oppression lead to militancy? Does the fact that women workers are more exploited than men, and are socially and culturally oppressed, make them better fighters than their male counterparts?

The answer that Lenin, Krupskaya, Armand and Kollontai gave was an emphatic no.

Oppression can lead to rebellion or submission. Empty stomachs, especially of the children, may lead a woman to struggle or to subservience: it depends whether she has hope of winning. The power of organised workers collectively to change the world, determines whether the most downtrodden proletarian women will fight or not. The hope of fighting women’s oppression lies in the collective struggle against exploitation.

Women do not make a constituency of struggle, as they are divided into classes. Even proletarian women are not a constituency of struggle. In no way can women alone face the employers and the state. Women and men Workers face the same bosses, the same capitalist state.

As the task of the revolutionary party is to lead the class struggle, the structure of the party must fit the constituencies of the proletarian class struggle.

Within the process of production women can overcome their passivity and atomisation (imposed largely by the family structure), gaining confidence in their capacity to act collectively. And just because of this any separatism between men and women proletarians will do damage to both, with the greater damage to women.

So many women (and men) among people who consider themselves socialist-feminists at present do not understand the ABC of Leninism that again and again they complain of ‘male domination’ of revolutionary parties (notably Beyond the Fragments). Anne Bobroff put the argument as follows:

The Bolshevik women who ran Rabotnitsa worked in close association with Lenin. And although the two editorial boards were both made up completely of women, the editor of Sotsial-demokrat – Lenin – had the deciding vote in the event of a tie. In addition, the organisation of the newspaper gave equal voting power, as Armand explained it, to the Russian and the foreign editorial boards, ‘no matter how many people are in the Russian editorial board’. With Lenin abroad, this organizational structure seems quite clearly a device with which to guarantee majority control of editorial policy to Lenin and those women who were in closest contact with him. Thus, Lenin’s control of the Bolshevik press extended directly Rabotnitsa, despite its uniqueness as a woman’s journal.

A most blatant example of the deference of these Bolshevik women to the male leadership of the party – even when they were meeting in all-women’s groups – occurred at one of the international women’s congresses (Berne, March 1915). Three of the five Bolshevik representatives were women who had been very active in Rabotnitsa; Krupskaya, Armand and Elena Rozmirovich. Angelica Balabanoff described how Lenin sat drinking tea in a nearby restaurant while the women’s congress was in session. The ‘Bolshevik women, working under Lenin’s direction, introduced a resolution which ... called for an immediate organizational break with the majorities in the existing Socialist and Labour parties and for the formation of a new International’. Despite the overwhelming opposition of all the other delegates, the Bolshevik representatives refused to withdraw their motion. Because a show of international unity among socialists was desperately desired at that point, Clara Zetkin finally negotiated with the Russian women and Lenin in a separate room. ‘Here Lenin finally agreed to a compromise.’ [103]

At a supposedly all-women’s congress, the Bolshevik delegates did not function autonomously: they refused to alter their position until Lenin had agreed to compromise.

These incidents illustrating the relationship between the male leadership and women in the party give us further insight into the Bolsheviks’ resistance to organizing working women into all-female groups. [104]

Anne Bobroff could have added to the male crimes of Lenin by referring to the appointment by the Bolshevik-controlled St. Petersburg Committee of Comrade Sergei as leader of the Workers’ Group to the First All-Russian Women’s Congress in December 1908.

A similar horror reaction would come from any separatist at the thought of Trotsky, a Jew, leading a Red Army of millions in which there were very few Jews; or Zinoviev the Jew, presiding over the Soviet of Petrograd, and Kamenev, the Jew, presiding over the Soviet of Moscow, towns in which there were hardly any Jews at all.

Towards October

When the war broke out the abyss between socialist women and bourgeois feminists grew wider than ever. The bourgeois feminists jumped on patriotic bandwagon. Dr. Pokrovskaia responded to the outbreak of the by calling for unity among women, sounding the themes of patriotism, sacrifice and possible reward: ‘In such a great patriotic moment the Russian women should show herself to be a true citizen, in the same way as were the famous Roman matrons.’ For the moment, women would make no demands on society; self-sacrifice would be the motif: ‘We must reduce to the minimum our needs, abandon luxury, and sacrifice all on the altar of society.’ In the end this would be to the advantage of women ‘This is important for the success of that equality which progressive women all over the world hope to achieve. We do not doubt that Russian women will fulfil their obligation to the end.’ [105]

Another leading feminist, Anna Shabanova of the Mutual Philanthropic Society was no less enthusiastic in supporting the war effort.

Before a year was out, she had made liaison with the various voluntary organisations and had set up a number of war-related enterprises caring for war victims, refugees, abandoned children, and (Russian) POWs. Shabanova also worked with the War Industries Committee in training women in military supply. There was hardly a home front activity for which she did not offer the services of the Society.

The Women’s Equal Rights Union, in a summons to ‘the daughters of Russia’ issued in August 1915, stated:

We women have to unite and each of us, forgetting personal misfortune and suffering, must come out of the narrow confines of the family and devote all our energy, intellect, and knowledge to our country. This is our obligation to the fatherland, and this will give us the right to participate as the equals of men in the new life of a victorious Russia.

The Union called for a ‘women’s mobilization’ along the lines of that attempted by Christabel Pankhurst in England; a campaign to draw all of Russia’s women into some kind of war work. [106] This was the attitude of the leaders to the war. Alas, for Russian working women the war meant added burdens on their already heavily laden backs. At the same time changes in employment during the war increased the strength of women proletarians. Mass conscription lowered the number of males in inspected industries by 12.6% between 1914 and 1917; for the same period the number of females rose by 18.8%. Women made up a third of the labour force at the start of the war and about half of it by 1917. [107]

To start with, the war led to total disarray in the labour movement. Stupor prevailed throughout the proletariat. The first nine months of the war were very quiet on the industrial front. It was women who triggered a change, beginning with bread riots. In Petrograd on 6 April, when the sale of meat was suspended for one day, women smashed and looted a large meat market; the scene was repeated in Moscow two days later over a shortage of bread. During the disturbances, the commandant of the city was badly cut by flying cobblestones. Later in the summer it happened again in the turbulent Khitrova Market. Similar events occurred in the following year. The number of strikes in which women participated is too large to allow adequate treatment here. The June 1915 strike in Ivanovo-Voznesensk began as a ‘flour strike’; a month later it erupted again as a political demonstration to end the war and free jailed workers. Thirty people were killed. The simultaneous strike in Kostroma was met by armed repression and followed by a mass funeral and another strike in which working women addressed a circular to the soldiers asking them for protection instead of bullets. [108]

News of the clashes led to major political strikes in August and September. In August 27,000 workers went on strike in Petrograd demanding the withdrawal of Cossack guards from the factories, the release of the 5 exiled Bolshevik deputies, freedom of the press, etc. Early in September 64,000 workers came out in Petrograd with political demands. Altogether in 1915 there were 928 strikes, of which 715 were economic, involving 383,587 workers, and 213 were political involving 155,941 workers.

There was no easing of the struggle in 1916. The commemoration of Bloody Sunday on 9 January 1916 brought 53,000 workers out (85% of them in Petrograd). Throughout 1916, and especially in the second half of the year, not only were more and more workers involved in strikes, but they became more and more political in nature. Altogether in 1916, 280,000 workers were involved in political strikes, and 221,136 in economic strikes. [109]

In January 1917 a police report noted that

the mothers of families exhausted from endless standing in line at the stores, tormented by the look of their half-starving and sick children, are very likely closer now in revolution than Messrs. Miliukov, Rodichev and Company, and of course they are more dangerous because they represent that store of inflammable material for which one spark will set off a fire. [110]

It was the women workers of Petrograd in 1917 who started the revolution. When on 22 February a group of women workers met to discuss the organisation of International Women’s Day the next day, V. Kaiurev, the worker-leader of the St. Petersburg District Committee of the Bolshevik Party, advised them to refrain from hasty action:

But to my surprise and indignation, on 23 February, at an emergency conference of five persons in the corridor of the Erikson works, we learned from comrade Nikifor Ilyin of the strike in some textile factories and of the arrival of a number of delegates from the women workers, who announced that they were supporting the metal workers. I was extremely indignant about the behaviour of the strikers, both because they had blatantly ignored the decision of the District Committee of the party, and also because they had gone on strike after I had appealed to them only the night before to keep cool and disciplined. With reluctance the Bolsheviks agreed to this (spreading of the strike) and they were followed by other workers – Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries. But once there is a mass strike, one must call everybody into the streets and take the lead. [111]

It was not until 25 February that the Bolsheviks came out with their first leaflet calling for a general strike – after 200,000 workers had already downed tools.’

It was the working women of the Petrograd textile industry who initiated a massive strike action which ultimately led to the abdication of the Tsar. The strike demonstration of 90,000 workers, led by the women workers. was joined by thousands more women who had been standing for hours in the bread lines. As one witness later recounted:

The working women driven to desperation by starvation and war, came along like a hurricane that destroys everything in its path with the violence of an elemental force. This revolutionary march of working women, full of the hatred of centuries of oppression, was the spark that set light to the great flame of the February revolution, that revolution which was to shatter Tsarism. [112]

It was women workers in the textile industry who elected delegates them round to neighbouring factories with appeals for support. Thus was the revolution detonated. It was, as Trotsky said,

a revolution begun from below, overcoming the resistance of its own revolutionary organisations, the initiative being taken of their own accord by the most oppressed and downtrodden part of the proletariat – the women textile workers, among them, no doubt, many soldiers’ wives. [113]

It was these same women who played a crucial role in engaging soldiers in discussion, persuading them to disobey the orders of the officers, and to hold fire:

They go up to the cordons more boldly than men, take hold of the rifles, beseech, almost command: ‘Put down your bayonets – join us.’ The soldiers are excited, ashamed, exchange anxious glances, waver; someone makes up his mind first, and the bayonets rise guiltily above the shoulders of the advancing crowd. The barrier is opened, a joyous and grateful ‘Hurrah!’ shakes the air. The soldiers are surrounded. Everywhere arguments, reproaches, appeals – the revolution makes another forward step. [114]

The newly resurrected Pravda acknowledged the Revolution’s debt to women in an editorial a week after International Women’s Day:

Hail the women!
Hail the International!
The women were the first to come out on the streets of Petrograd on their Women’s Day.
The women in Moscow in many cases determined the mood of the military; they went to the barracks, and convinced the soldiers to come over to the side of the Revolution.
Hail the women! [115]

Alas, the burden of centuries cannot be removed easily

Even the revolution could not shift the massive prejudices implanted over generations from the minds of both men and women workers. The unevenness between men and women workers, even in 1917, expressed itself in a number of ways. Let us take two examples, one, the question of equal pay; two, women’s representation on the Soviet, the most democratic form of power that ever existed.

During the 1905 revolution, the demands for minimum wages were in most cases explicit in requesting lower rates for women than for men. [116] Even in 1917, after the February revolution, the inequality of wages was again assumed to be acceptable to both men and women workers.

The first minimum wage agreement concluded between a society of factory owners and the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ deputies established two minimum wages – one for men who were to receive five roubles a day and another for women who were to receive four. [117]

The minimum fixed for shoe factories in Nevsky on 7 March 1917 was: for men 5 roubles, for women 3. In the giant Skorokhed shoe factory in Petrograd a minimum wage for men was fixed on 13 March at 5 roubles, and for women at 3.50 roubles. The Soviet of Ekaterinoslav decided on 14 June on a minimum for unskilled women of 2 roubles and for men 3 roubles. [118]

Not that the Bolsheviks did not fight against the unequal wages. Thus, for stance, Kollontai, in an article entitled A Serious Gap which appeared in Pravda on 5 May, criticised the agenda of the coming trade union congress for not including any discussion on equal pay.

There is a serious gap in the agenda of the conference. The question of equal pay for equal work, which is one of the most burning questions for the working class as a whole and for working women in particular, is not down for discussion. The low pay women receive is now even more impermissible since the war has thrown a large number of women on the labour market who are their family’s sole breadwinners’. [119]

It was not until after the October 1917 revolution that equal pay was established by law.

The second aspect of unevenness of men and women in the proletariat in the extreme under-representation of women in the Soviets. Again and again in the most democratic elections in history, women workers voted men to represent them. Thus in the Moscow Province where women made up half the proletariat, of 4,743 delegates to the Soviets in 26–7 March 1917, there were only 259 women. In the Soviet of Volgorod, of some hundred and fifty delegates, only 3 were women. In the Soviet of Grozny, of 170 delegates 4 were women. In the Soviet of Nizhnigorod of 135 delegates 3 were women. In the Soviet of Odessa of nearly 900 delegates about 40 were women. In the Soviet of Iaroslav, of 87 delegates 5 were women. [120]

The women workers who were in the vanguard of the revolution in February 1917, afterwards moved into the far background of the historical arena. (Hence in Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, women workers appear only in the first couple of chapters.)

Bolsheviks make a special effort to organise women

The tardiness of women workers to come forward could not be an excuse for neglecting the effort to organise them. One of Lenin’s first acts upon returning to Petrograd in April 1917, had been to write a letter to the Central Committee demanding its support for political work among women:

Unless women are drawn into taking an independent part, not only in political life generally, but also in daily social service obligatory to everyone, it is idle to speak not only of Socialism, but even of complete and stable democracy. [121]

The magnificent role of the women workers in the February revolution convinced the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks of the need to make a special effort to organise women. On 10 March Vera Slutskaia was put in charge of agitation among proletarian women. Three days later she brought to the executive her recommendations, the creation of a Women’s Bureau as part of the Petrograd Committee, and the revival of Rabotnitsa.

On 15 March Slutskaia reported on her conception of how the bureau should be organised. Each district committee of the Petrograd Committee was to select a woman representative and send her to work in the bureau. Its immediate tasks were to take steps towards publishing Rabotnitsa again, to raise money for this, and to issue leaflets ‘directed specifically to the woman proletarian question’.

No separate women’s organisation was envisaged.

The bureau will conduct only agitational work; the working women in general will be organised in the proletarian political and trade union institutions. No independent women’s organisations whatsoever will be created. All work will be conducted in full agreement with the decisions of the Petrograd Committee. [122]

Agitation bureaus were established throughout all district party levels. Clubs were also founded with the aim of drawing non-party working women into party activity.

On 10 May Rabotnitsa was started as a weekly with a circulation of 40–50,000. Its editors were Krupskaya, Elizarova, Kollontai, Samoilova, Nikolaeva, Kudelli and Velichkina. The issues they published dealt with such questions as the war, the eight-hour working day, the election to the district dumas, child labour, etc. The first issue carried a series of resolutions which had been passed in several plants and factories, notes on the women’s movement in Russia and abroad, greetings to Russian working women from the Swedish and Finnish Social democratic parties, and greetings from the editors of Pravda who expressed their confidence that the new journal would succeed in rallying masses of proletarian women, so that together with the proletarian men they would ‘on the ruins of Tsarism build the temple of socialism.’ [123]

Once the Bolsheviks came to power the question of the involvement of the mass of non-party women took on new dimensions. Now the question was how to mobilise hundreds of thousands and millions of women to participate in state, social and economic administration. And so Zhenotdely – Women’s Departments – came into being.


1. This article is a chapter from a forthcoming book about women and socialism.

2. Rothschild-Goldberg, The Russian Women’s Movement: 1859–1917, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Rochester, 1976.

3. Ibid., p. 2.

4. Ibid., pp. 29–30.

5. L.L. Filipova, On The History of Women’s Education in Russia, Voprosy iistori, February 1963, p. 209.

6. G.W. Lapidus, Women in Soviet Society, Berkeley 1979

7. R. Stites, The Women’s Liberation Movement In Russia, Feminism, Nihilism and Bolshevism, 1860–1930, New Jersey 1978, p27.

8. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., p. 69.

9. Stites, op. cit., p. 192.

10. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., p. 75.

11. Ibid., p77–8.

12. Stites, op. cit., p. 192.

13. Ibid., pp. 70-1.

14. Ibid., p. 197.

15. Ibid., p. 65.

16. A.M. Kollontai, Sotsialnie osnovy zhenskogo voprosa, St. Petersburg 1909, p. 21.

17. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., p. 86.

18. Ibid., p. 89.

19. Ibid., pp. 93–4.

20. Stites, op. cit., p. 199.

21. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., p. 103.

22. [reference missing in original]

23. V. Bilshai, The Status of Women in the Soviet Union, Moscow 1957, pp. 16–17.

24. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., pp. 110–111.

25. Ibid., pp134–5.

26. Ibid., pp. 124–5.

27. Ibid., p. 128.

28. Ibid., p. 125.

29. Stites, op. cit., p. 202.

30. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., p. 363.

31. Ibid., p. 121.

32. Ibid., p. 145.

33. Stites, op. cit., pp. 202.

34. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., pp. 130-1.

35. Stites, op. cit., p. 01.

36. F. Ken et al., eds., Deiateli revoluitsionnogo dvizheniia v Rossii, Moscow 1927–34.

37. Stites, op. cit., p. 116.

38. Ibid., pp. 148-9.

39. R.H. McNeal, Women in the Russian Radical Movement, Journal of Social History, Winter 1971–2. p. 144.

40. M. Perrie, The Social Composition and Structure of Socialist Revolutionary Party Before 1917, Soviet Studies, October 1972, p. 237.

41. McNeal, op. cit., p. 155.

42. M. Fainsod, How Russia Is Ruled, Cambridge Mass. 1963, p. 254.

43. A. Holt, ed., Selected Writings of Alexander Kollontai, London 1977, pp. 39–42.

44. R.I. Glickman, The Russian Factory Woman, 1890-1914, in D. Atkinson et al., eds., Women in Russia, Stanford 1978, p. 67.

45. A.G. Rashin, Formirovanie promyshlennogo proletariata v Rossii, Moscow 1940, pp. 185, 192, 194.

46. Glickman, op. cit., pp. 80–81.

47. A.G. Rashin, Formirovanie rabochego klassa Rossii, Moscow 1958, p. 598.

48. Ibid., p. 579.

49. V. Bilshai, Reshenie zhenskogo voprosa v SSSR, Moscow 1956, p. 58.

50. Glickman, op. cit., pp. 82.

51. V. Grinevich, Professionalnoe dviznenie rabochikh v Rossii, St. Petersburg 1908, p. 208.

52. Glickman, op. cit., p81.

53. L. Trotsky, 1905, p. 250.

54. Kollontai, Sotsialnie osnovy, op. cit., pp. 23–24.

55. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., p. 107.

56. A.M. Kollontai, Avtobbiograficheskii ocherk, Proletarskaia revoliutsiia, 3, 1921, pp. 268–70.

57. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., p. 108.

58. Kollontai, Sotsialnie osnovy, op. cit., pp. 102–6.

59. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., p. 107.

60. A.M. Kollontai, Avtobbiograficheskii ocherk, op. cit., pp. 261–70.

61. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., p. After the Bolshevik-Menshevik split in 1903 Kollontai wavered between the two groups, though admitting that ‘by temperament’ she was a Bolshevik. In 1906 she became a Menshevik, finding that the faction’s attitude towards the Duma more acceptable. She broke with the Mensheviks and joined the Bolsheviks in June 1915. In March 1917 she returned to Russia. On 4 April she spoke at a meeting of Social Democratic deputies in support of Lenin’s April Theses. At the Sixth Congress (26 July–3 August) she was elected a member of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party in absentia (being in Kerensky’s prison). After the October Revolution she became Commisar of Social Welfare. In protest against the Brest-Litovsk Treaty she resigned her job. At the end of 1920 she was a founder of the Workers’ Opposition and continued to belong to it until early 1922. From October 1922 until 1945she acted as Soviet Ambassador in Norway, Mexico, then again in Norway. Throughout the years of Stalin’s suppression of opposition, including the arrest and disappearance of her former husband, Pavel Dybenko, Kollontai kept quiet. She received top awards from Stalin for her services. She died of a heart attack on 9 March 1952.

62. Kollontai, Sotsialnie osnovy, op. cit., p. 4.

63. Ibid., p. 45.

64. Kollontai, Avtobbiograficheskii ocherk, op. cit., pp. 267–8.

65. Ibid., pp. 270–1.

66. Ibid., p. 272.

67. Stites op. cit., p. 250.

68. A.M. Kollontai, Iz moei zhizni i raboty, Moscow 1974, p. 109.

69. Kollontai, Avtobbiograficheskii ocherk, op. cit., pp. 274–5.

70. I.D. Levin, Workers’ Clubs in Petersburg 1907–1914, Materialy po istorii professionalnogo dvizhenie v Rossii, Volume 3, Moscow 1924, pp. 88–111.

71. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., p. 173.

72. Ibid., p. 181.

73. Ibid., pp. 196-7.

74. Kollontai, Iz moei, op. cit., pp. 111–2.

75. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., p. 198.

76. Kollontai, Iz moei, op. cit., p. 114, 379–80. Sergei was S.G. Beredinkov, about whom we know very little. Slutskaia and Kudelli however were destined to play a very important role in the Bolshevik Party and the Revolution. Slutskaia (1880–1917) was a member of the RSDLP from 1902, joined the Bolshevik faction in 1903, took part in the 1905 revolution in Minsk, was a delegate to the London Congress of the RSDLP, in emigration from 1909–1912, returned to St Petersburg in 1913, and was arrested and exiled. After the February Revolution she worked as a member of the Petrograd and Vasil’eostrov party committees, she was killed during the October Revolution. Kudelli (1859–1944) became a Marxist in the early 1890’s. She taught in an evening school for workers, where she met Krupskaya and Lenin. She wrote for Iskra, and joined the Bolsheviks in 1903, participated in 1913 in the first Russian celebration of International Women’s Day, was on the first editorial collective of Rabotnitsa in 1914, and was arrested for this the same year. From 1917–1922, she worked on Pravda.

77. Vsegda s Vami, Moscow 1964, pp. 15–16.

78. A.V. Artiukhina et al., eds., Zhenshchiny v revoliutsii, Moscow 1959, pp. 8–92.

79. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., pp. 183–5.

80. Trudy pervogo vserrosiiskogo zhenskogo sezda pri Russkom zhenskom obschchestve v Sankt-Petersburge 10–16 Dekabria, 1908, St. Petersburg 1909, pp. 456–458.

81. Ibid., p. 318.

82. Ibid., p. 340.

83. Ibid., pp. 792–4.

84. Ibid., pp. 800–1.

85. Stites, op. cit., p. 231.

86. Trudy, op. cit., p. 490.

87. Stites, op. cit., p. 252. Kollontai was not at the Congress at the time. She was able to attend only the first four days of the Congress. She had intended merely to come to the sessions, and not to speak at them. That proved impossible, her comments raised controversy, the police got wind of her presence, and surrounded the meeting hall the next day. Kollontai, forewarned, was able to flee.

88. A. Bobroff, The Bolsheviks and Working Women, 1905–20, Soviet Studies, October 1974, p. 545.

89. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., pp. 254–6.

90. T. Cliff, Lenin, Vol. I, London 1975, pp. 237–8.

91. Ibid., pp. 319–22.

92. Bobroff, op. cit., pp. 551–3.

93. Ibid., pp. 554–5.

94. Artiukhina, op. cit., p. 96.

95. Ibid., p. 97.

96. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., pp. 341–2.

97. R. Dale, The Role of Women of Petrograd in War, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, 1914–1921, PhD Thesis, New Brunswick University, 1973, p. 104.

98. Ibid., p. 94–95.

99. Ibid., p. 108.

100. V. Drizde, Nadezhda Konstaninova, Moscow 1966, pp. 31–4, in Dale, op. cit., pp. 102.

101. Ibid., pp. 104-5.

102. A.F. Bossonova, ed., On the History of the Publication of the Journal Rabotnitsa, Istoricheckii arkhiv, Moscow 1955, pp. 37–9.

103. A. Balananoff, My Life as a Rebel, Bloomington 1973, pp. 132–4.

104. Bobroff, op. cit., pp. 564–5.

105. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., p. 364.

106. Stites, op. cit., p. 292.

107. Ibid., p. 287.

108. Ibid., pp. 288-9.

109. [reference missing in original]

110. Bilshai, Reshenie zhenskogo soprosa v SSSR, op. cit., p. 96.

111. V. Kaiurov, Six Days of the February Revolution, Proletarskaia revoliutsiia, No. 1(13), 1923.

112. F.W. Halle, Women in Soviet Russia, London 1933, p. 91.

113. L. Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, London 1934, p. 122.

114. Ibid., p. 109.

115. Rothschild-Goldberg, op. cit., p. 354.

116. Glickman, op. cit., p. 81.

117. R.S.M. Kingbury and M. Fairchild, Factory, Family and Women in the Soviet Union, New York 1935, p. 80.

118. A.L. Sidorov et al., eds., Velikaia oktiabrskaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia: Dokumenty I materialy, Vol. I, Moscow 1957, pp. 470–1; Vol. 3, pp. 208–9.

119. Holt, op. cit., p. 125.

120. Sidorov, op. cit., Vol, I, pp. 316, 321, 323, 325, 327, 331.

121. V.I. Lenin, The Revolution of 1917, Collected Works, Vol. 20, Book 1, 1929, p. 142, quoted in Kingsbury and Fairchild, op. cit., pp. xxii.

122. Sidorov, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 55, 67, 74–5, 80.

123. Vsegda s Vani, op. cit., pp. 80–1.

Last updated on 29.2.2012