Synopses & Reviews
On July 20, 1917, Russia became the world’s first major power to grant women the right to vote and hold public office. Yet in the wake of the October Revolution later that year, the foundational organizations and individuals who pioneered the suffragist cause were all but erased from Russian history. The women’s movement, when mentioned at all, is portrayed as meaningless to proletariat and peasant women, based in elitist and bourgeoisie culture of the tsarist era, and counter to socialist ideology. In this groundbreaking book, Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild reveals that Russian feminists in fact appealed to all classes and were an integral force for revolution and social change, particularly during the monumental uprisings of 1905–1917.
Ruthchild offers a telling examination of the dynamics present in imperialist Russia that fostered a growing feminist movement. Based upon extensive archival research in six countries, she analyzes the backgrounds, motivations, methods, activism, and organizational networks of early Russian feminists, revealing the foundations of a powerful feminist intelligentsia that came to challenge, and eventually bring down, the patriarchal tsarist regime.
Ruthchild profiles the individual women (and a few men) who were vital to the feminist struggle, as well as the major conferences, publications, and organizations that promoted the cause. She documents political party debates on the acceptance of women’s suffrage and rights, and follows each party’s attempt to woo feminist constituencies despite their fear of women gaining too much political power. Ruthchild also compares and contrasts the Russian movement to those in Britain, China, Germany, France, and the United States. Equality and Revolution offers an original and revisionist study of the struggle for women’s political rights in late imperial Russia, and presents a significant reinterpretation of a decisive period of Russian—and world—history.
“Equality and Revolution
chronicles the fascinating story of the rise of feminism and suffrage in late tsarist Russia, showing us a society in upheaval over its core identity. In analyzing the women’s movements and their impact on the revolutions of 1905–1917, Ruthchild has given us a page-turning account that brings an era and a movement to life, demonstrating how far the notion of democracy could go in a revolutionary epoch.”
—Elizabeth Wood, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“Ruthchild argues that the women’s movement in Russia, with its insistence on women’s citizenship and suffrage, was integral to democratization efforts in imperial Russia, especially to the revolutions of 1917. Her book is deeply researched, carefully crafted, and beautifully written. By providing a gendered interpretation of Russian political history, by insisting on individual agency and biography, she has provided an astute work of historiography as well as a masterpiece of historical reconstruction. What’s more, the book is eminently readable; I couldn’t put it down.”
—Karen Offen, Stanford University
“This will be the definitive study for years to come. Ruthchild provides a nuanced analysis of the feminist movement and its socialist opposition. Her analysis of the enfranchisement of Finnish women in 1906 is excellent.”
—The Russian Review
“Fascinating, clearly written, and well-researched."
“A deeply researched analysis of Russian feminists’ struggles in the years before Communist rule. . . . Ruthchild demonstrates the importance of Russia in the broader history of women’s suffrage. Thus, this book will be of interest beyond the field of Russian history. . . . Highly recommended for upper-level students and specialists in gender and Russian history.”
“Ruthchild’s particular focus is the female intelligentsia and she provides case studies of key feminists. She charts in fascinating detail their participation in and contribution to civic life in Russia, especially in the period between 1905 and 1917. She also places this generation of feminists within the broader context of the pioneer feminists who had concentrated from the 1860s on philanthropic and educational causes.”
“A clearly organized, highly readable, engaging and informative study. Ruthchild writes fluidly, vividly, accessibly and with passion for her topic, yet she retains academic rigor. Provides an excellent resource for teaching Russian and women’s history as well as for comparative research projects on women’s lives. It will be an asset to Russian political history courses and will be really informative—even inspirational—for the general reader.”
—The NEP Era
Ruthchild’s study reveals that Russian feminists were an integral force for revolution and social change, particularly during the monumental uprisings of 1905-1917. She analyzes the backgrounds, motivations, methods, activism, and organizational networks of early Russian feminists that came to challenge, and eventually bring down, the patriarchal tsarist regime.
About the Author
Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild is a research associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, professor emerita of graduate studies at Vermont College/Union Institute & University, and former director of the Russian School at Norwich University.