Woman in Soviet Russia

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Table of contents :
Biographical Note
Editor's Introduction
1. Stari Buit — "The Old Way of Life"
2. Women Workers
3. Women of the Villages
4. Woman's Entrance Into Public Life
5. Women and Education
6. The Transition to the New Family
7. Making a Marriage Law
8. Revolutionary Morals
9. Housing
10. Mothers and Babies
11. Noradny Pitanya — "Feeding the People"
12. Building the Future Community
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PRINCETON ANTIQUES 000HSM0P The Until Boohhop tn the World

ISO,OOO VOLUMES of Out of Print and Rare Books Author, Subject and Title Index Files in Atmosphere of Mu­ seum Quality Antiques. Plot International tuiih Mrvfco to loealt any book over prinltd.

2915-17 Atlantic Ave. Atlantic City, N. J. 06401 609-344-1943 ROBERT EUGENE RUFFOIO, It, Prop.

Vanguard Studies of Soviet Russia

Woman in Soviet Russia By JESSICA SMITH


Copyright, iyai, by Vanguard Press, Inc.


tint—February, 192S


To the sincere men and women of Russia who, despite prison, exile, and death, burned out their lives trying to attain freedom, peace, and brotherhood for the common people.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE Jessica Smith Daughter of W. Granville-Smith, artist; born in Madison, New Jersey, in 1895; graduated from Swarthmore College, 1915; after a year of news­ paper work joined the suffrage movement as organ­ izer and speaker, campaigning in New York State for the National American Woman Suffrage Asso­ ciation in 1917, working with National Woman’s Party in Washington, D. C., and later assisting Anne Martin of Nevada in her campaign for United States senatorship; active in Women’s Inter­ national League in its earlier stages, and in Birth Control League; executive secretary of Intercol­ legiate Socialist Society, 1919-1921; in 1922 went to Russia with American Friends Service Committee to do famine relief work, supervising distribution of food, social work, etc., in ten villages; when famine work was completed, lived a year in Moscow, get­ ting a more thorough knowledge of the language, visiting factories, schools, institutions of various kinds, and many Russian families; returned to America in 1924, assisting in the campaign to raise funds for the Russian Reconstruction Farms, an en­ terprise to teach modern farming methods to Rus­ sian peasants; returned to Russia in 1926 to assist in work of Farms as translator and research worker; author of several articles on Russia. vi

EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION The Russian Revolution startled a war-diseased world and ushered in the most daring political and economic experiment of the twentieth century. Considering the vast territory affected, the radical changes inaugurated, and the influence which has been and still is being exerted on international relations, there is probably no greater event in modern history, whether for good or evil. Most Americans forget that a decade has already passed since Lenin and his Communistic followers assumed the powei> The period of rapid revolutionary change has gone. Russia is painstakingly, step by step, building something different, something unique, something whose final destination is unpredictable. America has been a land of discovery from its foun­ dation. Not only in the realm of scientific invention, but in first attaining the coveted North Pole and in exploring other unknown areas of the world, Americans have given generously of life and treasure. Today we are uninformed about a great nation covering one-sixth of the land surface of the world. Russia is cut off by an Atlantic Ocean of prejudice, misunderstanding, and propaganda. We still maintain a rigid official quaran­ tine about the Soviet Government. The result is ignorance frankly admitted by one "of the highest authorities in our Government,” who declares this inevitable "in the absence of diplomatic relations.” Judge Gary corroborates this verdict, "Like many other Americans, I am ignorant in regard to many of the vii



conditions which exist in Russia at the present time.”* Every scientist realizes that ignorance is one of the most dangerous forces in the world today. No matter how good or how bad the Soviet system, we should know all about it. Instead, we have been ruled by prop­ aganda and hearsay. The fact is that for the past ten years the Bolshevik government has been operated on, dissected, and laid in its coffin amidst loud applause and rejoicing by distinguished orators in all parts of the world; yet today it is stronger, more stable, than ever before in its history and its leaders have been longer in power than any other ruling cabinet in the world. It is high time that we appraise this government as scentifically and impartially as possible, without indulging in violent epithets or questionable and controversial dogmas. Surely the world is not so abysmally ignorant that after ten years of the rule of the Soviet we cannot discover a common core of truth about Russia. Whether the Communists are thought to be "dan­ gerous enemies of society” or the "saviors of human­ ity,” the facts should be known before judgment is pronounced. No matter what our conviction, we have to admit that the Bolsheviki are hammering out a startling new mechanism in the field of political con­ trol. Their experiment deserves scientific study, not hostile armies; intelligent criticism2 not damning epithets. In the past, America has been flooded with propa­ ganda of all shades. Dr. E. A. Ross dedicates his last volume on Russia "To my fellow-Americans who have become weary of being fed lies and propaganda about Russia.” In his chapter on the "Poison Gas Attack” ♦ Current History, February, 1926.



he lists forty-nine stories broadcast throughout Amer­ ica which have been proved totally false. Other writers have pointed out similar facts. Walter Lipp­ man, Editor-in-Chief of The New York World, in his illuminating study of all Russian news which appeared in The New York Times in the early period of the Revolution, has proved the stupidity, inaccuracy, and falsehood of the "facts and fabrications” which have passed as news. Even those articles and books which have tried to deal honestly with the subject have usually been inadequate. They have either been too general or they have been specific but too brief to be of more than passing value. In all too many cases they are based on only a few weeks of observation in Russia by someone who did not know the native language. The present series is designed to meet the need for; reliable, accurate information on the major aspects of present-day Russia. We have tried to make it as scientifically accurate as is possible in the treatment of contemporary phenomena. It has been our aim in selecting each author to choose someone who because of previous experience and training was peculiarly well qualified as an authority on the particular subject to which he was assigned. In every case we have chosen those who either have made a prolonged stay in Russia, actually writing their volumes while in the country, or those who have made a special trip to Russia to secure the facts about which they write. We have tried to make the series inclusive, covering the more important aspects of the many-sided developments in Russia. Each volume is devoted to one major subject alone. People want detailed, accurate facts in readable form. Here they can be found, ranging all the way from an



analysis of the governmental machinery to the school system. Within this series some repetition has been inevitable. The editor believes that this .is distinctly desirable since each author expounds his subject in his own way, with an emphasis original to him and in the light of his own data. No effort has been made to eliminate contradictions, yet they are surprisingly few. Where the testimony of all is unanimous, the conclu­ sions reached are overwhelmingly strong. Where differences exist, they should stimulate the reader to weigh the evidence even more carefully, :: It is probably too much to hope that? propaganda organizations will not endeavor to discredit any such genuine effort to arrive at the truth. Perhaps it is sufficient to say in refutation that no similar attempt to secure the facts about Russia from trained experts has yet been made in America or elsewhere, so far as the writer is aware. There is scant ground for intelli­ gent criticism unless similar scientific studies have been made with conflicting results; even then time alone can proclaim the final truth. No sincere and unprej­ udiced scientist will deplore an effort to study and describe what has happened in the first experiment the world has ever seen in applied comipunisiru even if mistakes have been made in the analysis. These volumes on the whole not only contain the most valuable data so far available, but they will probably remain of permanent worth. In the future no real historian endeavoring to master the facts about the great political upheaval in Russia will care to ignore them. Is Russia the most tyrannical dictatorship of bloody despots that the world has ever seen? Is Russia the first step in the building of a new world order whose keynote will be industrial democracy? We do



not pretend to give here the final judgment of history, but we do claim to have made a sincere effort to por­ tray the facts. Thanks are due to the authors who have so pains­ takingly sought to present the truth as they found it, to the publishers for their assistance in making this a notable and usable series, and to all those whose labor, whether by hand or brain, has helped to give these volumes to the American public. Jerome Davis, Yale University.



Editor’s Introduction.............................................. vii

Start Bust—’‘The Old Way





Women Workers........................................... xx


Women of the Villages............................ 31


Woman’s Entrance Into Public Life .



IX. X.


Women and Education............................ 67

The Transition

VII. Vm.





to the

New Family .



Marriage Law............................ 105

Revolutionary Morals ..•••• 123 Housing........................................................... 14;



Babies................................... 164


Narodny-Pitanya—"Feeding the People”



Building the Future Community . .




WOMAN IN SOVIET RUSSIA CHAPTER I Start Buit—''THE OLD WAY OF LIFE” All that proclamation and law could do to remove dis­ crimination against women in every relationship, from family to state, has been done in Soviet Russia. The first decrees defined marriage as a union entered upon and dis­ solved at will in which the only concern of the state is to insure the proper care and support of the children; recognized motherhood as a social function to be pro­ tected and endowed by the government; removed the stigma of illegitimacy from the children of unmarried parents; established the principle of equal pay for equal work; and gave women the complete rights and duties of citizenship. But legislation cannot wipe out the prejudices of cen­ turies in a decade. It is merely the background for ex­ perience and education, which will develop new habits of thought and conduct. "It is one thing,” writes Yaroslavsky, a prominent Communist, "to write good laws, and another to create the actual conditions to bring those laws into life. And here we must say frankly that without a radical recon­ struction of our whole way of living, we will not be able to solve the problem.” It is because that radical reconstruction is now in pro­ cess that it is difficult to give a clear picture of family life as it is in Russia today, and without considering the i



changing family relationships it is impossible to visualize the new status of women. But the new family, whatever its form, cannot flower until new generations have been educated, until old prejudices, old filth, have been cleared away, until new houses, new communities, have been built. All we can look for are possibilities, tendencies, beginnings. Foremost of all the achievements of the revolution touching family life is the complete equality given to woman as wife, mother and citizen, the measures being taken to enable her to enjoy that equality through edu­ cating her to its meaning, and the social handling of functions that formerly chained her to the home. The two main things that have held the majority of families together in the past have been the economic de­ pendence of wife and children on husband and father, and the dependence of the other members of the family on the woman, for the preparation of food, clothing, and other details of existence. These props have been re­ moved. Man and wife are economically independent of each other and are jointly responsible for the children’s support, while communal homes, day nurseries, public dining rooms and laundries are gradually taking women’s place in controlling the details of daily living. / In western countries the winning of political rights for women has merely given them a weapon with which they can fight more effectively for their social and eco­ nomic emancipation. Economic rights, without which the others count little, come last. In the Soviet Union the process has been reversed, and economic rights have come first. It was taken for granted that whatever the revolution would give, it would give to men and women alike. The Constitution settled without question the right of all persons of eighteen, irrespective of sex,



faith, or nationality, engaged in socially useful labor, and not exploiting others for personal gain, to elect or be elected to the Soviets. This included housewives, whose labor is recognized as making possible the pro­ ductive labor of men.1 But the general emphasis was on the economic rather than the political aspect of the emancipation of women. With their vast inheritance of illiteracy and poverty, it was clear that only through economic freedom and education could they attain suffi­ cient material and mental independence to give their political equality any significance. Economically and politically there was little difference in the degree to which the masses of men and women were oppressed under the old regime, but socially the women certainly had the worst of it. Women as a whole were in the same relation to men in the field of social and family relationships as the workers and peas­ ants to the upper classes, and here the revolution had a great deal more to give women than men. The Kerensky regime did not seem to consider this fact important, and made no attempt to change the old laws on family re­ lationships. But within a month after the Bolshevik government came into power, while it was still fighting for its life, it took time to change the whole basis of marriage and the family. To understand in any degree the position of women in Russia today, it is first necessary to realize the depths from which they have come. It is easy enough to recon^ struct the picture. The old Russia is everywhere still.’ It lingers along country roads, where peasant women stagger under inhuman loads of wood or potatoes of grain; in humble isbas (cabins), where the moujhik’s chief term of endearment for his wiie is "old horse 1See articles 64 and

section 4, Soviet Constitution.



radish” or "cabbage heacj,” and his usual greeting a curse; in village meetings where the kulaks2 form a united front against the admission of women to places in the Soviets. Sometimes a worker beats his wife for going to a meeting. And even in more enlightened circles the old Russia still clings like last year’s leaves not yet thrust out of place by the new shoots. I have heard it said that there are men in the Communist Party who still prefer that their wives preside over a corner of the communal kitchen stove than sit with them around the council table. Old proverbs too, tell the story. "A chicken is not a bird—and a baba2 is not a human being”—"Beat your wife for breakfast and for dinner too;” "I thought I saw two people, but it was only a man and his wife” —"The woman’s road—threshold to stove”—and dozens more in the same vein. Not so very different from the picture of women’s lives the world over, but more sordid and degrading be­ cause of the backwardness of the masses of the popula­ tion, and the flavor of the Orient which has crept so far into Russian life, bringing with it the male con­ ception of woman as a possession, nothing more. From childhood the Russian woman has always been subject to the power of men. She was her father’s daughter, and her husband’s wife. Her mother’s will did not count. When she was married, she was turned over body and soul to her husband. Only church mar­ riages were recognized, and the church dictated the terms of married life. "The wife must fear her hus­ band!” was the gruesome warning of the priest in tying 8 Literally "fists,” the historic name applied to the richer class of peasants who live by exploiting others. * Peasant expression for woman.



the holy bonds of matrimony. And well the young bride might fear this man, often not of her own choice, to whom in the future she was obliged under the Holy Law of the Russian Empire "to submit as the head of the family, to live with in love, honor, and unlimited obedience, to render all pleasure and devotion as the mistress of the house.” 4 The wife was obliged to follow the husband wherever he went. If she left him he could send the police to bring her home, and the unfaithful wife could be put in jail. The wife could get no passport nor take a job without the husband’s consent. Divorce was decided by church court, and permitted only on limited grounds, the chief one being adultery proved by witnesses. Lawyers and "witnesses” claimed such stiff fees that the luxury of divorce was available only to the very rich. The law so favored men that it was almost impossible for a woman to get a divorce, while it was a common occur­ rence for an innocent woman to be adjudged unfaith­ ful by the court and have her children taken from her. Only one fourteenth part of the inheritance went to the daughter, the remaining thirteen parts went to the son or sons, and on marriage all of a woman’s property and money came under her husband’s control. The peasant women grew old and ugly and illnatured under the double burden of work and abuse. While their brothers went to school the little girls were kept home to take care of littler ones. You see them still, little girls of eight and nine, heavy with their mother’s child, their own child faces weirdly old. At the earliest possible moment they join the family in the fields at work. When they married, the father usually chose the husband, and sold his daughter to the highest 4 Article 108, Chap, x, VoL xo, Holy Law of Russian Empire.



bidder. There was little romance or sentiment involved in peasant marriages. The marriage of the buxom girl of sixteen was not only a convenience to her own, but to the husband’s, family. For them she was a new work­ ing hand, and had to work hard to make up for the food she consumed. The babies started coming one after an­ other. The high birth rate was inevitably accompanied by a high death rate, an average of twenty-seven babies out of every hundred, and in some places as many as fifty or seventy-five, dying in their first year. The mortality of mothers in child birth was high too. Medical help in the villages was pitifully inadequate, and the over­ worked midwives could only get around to a small pro­ portion of the thousands of babies born every year. Us­ ually the village babka 5 was called in. The mother lay among the cockroaches and pumpkins on the stove, and gnarled and dirty hands delivered her baby and wrapped it in rags. The babka sprinkled plenty of holy water on mother and child to ward off evil spirits, but used no such precautions against dirt. The church taught that women were unclean during parturition, and in many households the mother was, and still is, put out in the cow-shed on a dirty sheepskin coat to have her baby. Since abortions were highly penalized, the babka’s ad­ vice was also sought by the mothers who decided to put an end to the succession of babies, and she operated with nails or button hooks or carrots, or prescribed some deadly brew. Birth control was, of course, totally un­ known in the villages, and little known in the cities. So the peasant woman dragged through life, working * Btbkts are untrained and unlicensed midwives who are to be found in both village and city. Superstition has it that they must be old, since h young woman is supposed to absorb the life of the child.



as hard as the men in the fields, having and losing her babies, cooking and carrying water, washing the clothes in the river, making the fires, spinning and weaving through the winter months, milking the cows—for all this getting nothing but abuse and beatings from her husband. The winter months were a time of special horror for most peasant women, for then the moujhiks had less to do, and were often confined to the house for long hours, and vodka and sex were the whole of their lives. There was no escape for the women. Rare were the ones who revolted. Those who did were so hunted and hounded that it was hardly worth the trouble. In the cities life was no better for the poorer classes. The husband became more brutal, if anything, when he changed from the field to the factory. His family lived under still more crowded and miserable conditions. In the factory the wife and children worked too, and the women were subjected to even greater exploitation than the men. They worked long hours for less pay, lifted heavy loads, labored up until the last minute of preg­ nancy and returned to work immediately after, in des­ perate fear of losing their jobs. There was not even the most elementary decree for the protection of women in industry until 1912, when a limited social insurance law was passed which was so hemmed about by restric­ tions that it was of little use. Many women were forced to prostitution—a legalized institution carried on in houses whose opening was blessed by the priest. Many unwanted babies were thrown into wells and rivers. The foundling homes were full of illegitimate children for whom the law offered no protection. The father could not legally recognize his own child even if he wished to, and the child could expect meagre support only in case he himself was able



to prove his paternity. On the death of the father the child lost all connection with his family, as he was not supposed to be related to any of the rest of them. Among the middle classes, although life was a more leisurely and pleasant affair, it was spiritually no less sordid for the women. The young daughter of the petty bourgeois manufacturer or merchant was shut up in hbr room and often did not see her husband until her wed­ ding day. The aristocracy were equally strict. Young people were chaperoned everywhere, with the result of the most extreme license under cover. Every city had its