Russia was one of the first countries to recognize the value of a woman and their rights as a citizen. Their roles changed rapidly in the 20th century. Women quickly went from keepers of the home to factory workers and revolutionary leaders. War, revolutions, poverty, and values changed the women’s roles in the community. Inessa Armand was a prominent leader for these small feminist victories; she was an active feminist, member of the Bolshevik party, and played a crucial role in the Russian Revolutions. Armand and her female following helped shape the Russian Revolution and both world wars; women were exceedingly involved in the revolutions and wars and helped the Russian/Soviet cause. Vladimir Lenin, Inessa Armand, and the Bolsheviks laid the ground work for the rest of the world to change their views and laws on women.Inessa was born in 1874 in Paris, France; she lived in France until she was about five years old and she was moved to Moscow, Russia. She was raised by her grandmother and aunt; they were both teachers, so Inessa learned how to read and write and was very smart. Inessa married her first husband at the age of nineteen and was involved with the community at a young age. She beard four children with her wealthy husband, opened a school for peasant children, and actively dedicated to helping the destitute women. This is where he spark for feminism began. She became very opinionated and had radical political views. Inessa and her husband were in an open relationship and she eventually divorced him and married his younger brother, Vladimir Armand. They shared the same political views and both joined the illegal Russian group, “Russian Social Democratic Labour Party;” this was the beginning of the Bolsheviks party. Inessa and Armand were members of these parties. They lobbied for them and even distributed illegal propaganda. Inessa was arrested and was exiled to Northern Russia. She escaped and went to France where she met Vladimir Lenin and other Bolsheviks that had been arrested and exiled.Inessa was already a notorious member of the Bolsheviks and helping unite them to conquer the Mensheviks and take over Russia. When she met Lenin, she became even more involved and even helped him become the leader of the Bolsheviks. Lenin trusted Inessa more than anyone else and gave her many missions to help the Bolsheviks cause; this landed Inessa in jail a few more times. Inessa was in and out of Russia doing work for Lenin and the Bolsheviks. There was a noticeable romantic relationship between Lenin and Inessa; he wrote to her while she was away and told her that she was “strong, beautiful, and energetic.” Lenin was assuring her that she was the person that needed to be doing the jobs he was handing her because nobody else had the same credentials as her.Lenin was married to Nadezhda Krupskaya, but according to journal entries, she was aware of the relationship of Lenin and Inessa. Inessa and Lenin were not physically romantic, but their relationship was more than just friends. Bob Gould stated that even though Inessa and Lenin were not public about their relationship, there was a sense of it in Inessa’s latest diary entries and Lenin’s devastating reaction to her death. Gould said that he believes that if Inessa had not died when she did, Lenin and she would have expanded their relationship to that level. Lenin was a great deal of Inessa’s life and allowed her to do the things that she did. He gave her a gateway into the political world and gave her a platform to help with Russia’s feminist movement. It is true that Lenin gave Inessa her platform to grow and become a political leader, but it would not have been possible without her ambition and drive. Bolsheviks did not want Russia to get involved with the First World War, so they would protest against it. They left illegal propaganda plastered all over Russia and many people were arrested for it. Inessa was well known during this part of Russian history. She was arrested multiple times, but her beliefs and views meant more than her freedom. Inessa protested against World War One and did so by leaving propaganda all over Russia and their neighboring states. She stated in her diary that the war was evil and Russia needed to focus on what was happening with the Czar rather than fighting a war. Russia was in the midst of multiple revolutions while World War One was happening. The Czar had lost control and eventually resigned. This left a door open for the Bolsheviks to take control. Inessa was by Lenin’s side trying to get it done. Lenin used her to advocate for the Bolsheviks because she could speak five languages and had great knowledge about the subject. When Czar Nicholas stepped down, Lenin swooped in and took control. Inessa was not in the limelight, but she was right by his side the entire way. This is why Russia pulled out of World War One early, Lenin wanted to focus on reconstructing Russia and they could not do that while fighting a war. Inessa did many things for the Bolsheviks and helping them turn Russia communist, but her main goal since the beginning was to progress women and their rights. She started this by creating a sanctuary for poor women and prostitutes. She attempted to start many journals, newspapers, and schools for women, but was turned down by the government. This is when she realized that there would not be any progression unless the tsarist government was overthrown. After her arrests, travels, and the government break-down, Inessa returned to Russia to start a progressive movement for feminism. She began by starting journals and newspapers for women. She made them see that they had more rights than they have been given. She wanted to make sure that they knew men were not superior to them. She proves this in a piece she wrote about a congress meeting; she said that women were bound to the “locks of slavery” and time had now come to “replace the household economy and free women as housewives so they could participate in party.” This inspired women to rally and protest for their rights, not only in Russia, but this spread to the world. In 1917, Inessa founded the First All-Russia Congress of Working and Peasant Women, this was created to give all women the rights they deserved. At the first meeting Lenin spoke and said “this Congress of the women’s section of the workers’ army has a special significance, because one of the hardest things in every country has been to stir the women into action. There can be no socialist revolution unless very many working women take a big part in it.” Lenin used this platform to get more people on the side of communism, but it still allowed women to get their rights in Russia, which was the first country to do so. Inessa also created the Zhenotdel, an organization made to reach all of the women in the regime. Lenin and Inessa wanted to make sure that progress was happening all over, since Russia is so big, they created missions for people to travel all over to spread the new law and help women in need. This is because, according to Lenin, women were treated as slaves before the reform. The Zhenotdel and the newspaper correspondence for the organization, the Kommunistka, were the last things Inessa did before her death in 1920. Her legacy lived throughout Russia until Stalin contracted everything in 1930; it still lived throughout the world because she allowed other countries to reform as well. Women went from slaves with no rights to citizens with rights in a matter of 15 years thanks to Inessa. The role of women changed rapidly during this time. Women were considered caretakers of the home and were not supposed to be educated or working. In some marriage ceremonies, a whip was passed to the husband to show that he would be the dominant in the relationship. Women took care of their husbands and children, were required to do as their husbands said, and were responsible for the housework. Inner-city women had more opportunities to work in factories and broke away from the home, but women in rural areas needed more help and resources. That is why Inessa started the organizations to help working women, prostitutes, and women living outreached. She created missions for people to travel to these women to show them and help them break away from their abusive husbands or educate them so they could be free and independent. Some were scared or worried that it would not work, Inessa wrote in a diary entry about a peasant woman confiding to her about her abusive husband and that she was scared to betray him; Inessa had to assure her nothing would happen to get her to take a stand and get her freedom. Inessa was good with words and convinced women that they would be helped. She not only spoke about it but she took action and made sure they were safe. In the beginning of the 20th century, if women were working, they were working in poor conditions and were not paid adequately. Inessa made sure this was changed as well. She not only allowed women to get rights and freedom, but she made sure they were getting treated equally. There were many strikes in Russia at this time by women. The First World World accelerated the process of integrating women into the workforce. Lenin thought this was good because it was breaking women out of their traditional role and making them independent members of society. This also came with terrible conditions and inequality. Inessa and Lenin worked together and got a lot of this changed for women. They also erased all abiding laws for women making them property to men or without their personal freedoms. When Inessa died in 1920, she was in the process of getting women the right to vote in Russia. Lenin and Inessa did a lot for women in this short time period and completely changed their roles from the beginning of the 1900s. Women’s roles changed rapidly for the Russian Revolution, WWI, and WWII. World War One was the turning point for feminism in Russia. The outbreak of war in 1914 was a surprise and the regime was poorly prepared, many men had to suit up and fight. With the men being gone, millions of women had to step up and do jobs they never had before. According to Barbara Clements (1982), over 250,000 women joined the workforce in Russia between 1914 and 1917; it rose the number of working women to over one million. Peasant women also took on new roles at their homes by taking over farm work that their husbands usually did. There were also women nurses in the war and Barbara Engel (2004) stated that women even fought in the frontlines, often disguised as men. This amount of participation from females would not have happened prior to the 1900s. They knew change of how a women should be portrayed started to shift and men started to realize that women can be more useful than bearing children and taking care of the home. This changing role is what allowed Lenin and the Bolsheviks to gain so many women supporters. The Bolsheviks stressed equality and women’s rights. They said change was coming and the tsarist regime is what was holding them back from it. There were many promises made and having women, such as Inessa, by Lenin’s side showed that women could trust him. This is what led to the 1917 revolution in Russia. Many women joined the cause to overthrow the tsar so they could get the freedom they deserved. This was mainly women already in the workforce or living in cities. The peasant women in the villages opposed the revolution because their way of life is all they knew. They were scared of revolution and that they would be reprimanded for it. This is why Inessa created assignments for people to travel to these areas and educate them. Later, most of the women were liberated from the villages and their way of life they were so accustomed to. The Russian Revolution is what made all of the changes legal. Lenin stripped all of the laws that made women into property or took away any of their freedoms. Russia was the first major country to allow women the right to vote. These changes allowed women to get an education and join workforces of their choosing. It also awarded women better working conditions and better pay. This set the tone for the rest of the world and soon after other countries followed the same path. Communism was bad and the Soviet Union falling in the 1990s proves that, but it did help spark feminism around the world and changed how a women would be viewed forever. World War Two was a different time for the Soviet Union. Inessa had passed away and Stalin was now in power. Stalin abolished almost all of the liberated laws that Lenin and Inessa had in place for women. The Zhenotdel was dismantled and the Soviet Government no longer contributed funds to women progressivism. However, this did not change the fact that women were in the workforce and willing to help with World War II. Women entered the workforce in the beginning of the 1900s and remained there throughout Stalin and the start of WWII. The working conditions and pay was not great due to the Stalin era and him not caring. When the Germans first attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, women volunteered to join the army and thousands of them were turned away. Women again took over jobs that men usually would have done so they could join the war effort. Employment rates rose even higher in WWII than that of WWI. In WWII women made even more progressive strides in the Soviet Union and all over the world. They not only were in the workforce but they joined the army with many different roles. Previously, in WWI, women did fight in the war, but in small numbers and they were mainly just nurses for the wounded men. In WWII, things changed and women were trained to fight. There were the first women pilots for the Red Army, snipers, machine gunners, tank crew members and partisans. Some were even decorated in uniform and 89 of them eventually received the Soviet Union’s highest award, the Hero of the Soviet Union. Jean Cottam (1980) stated that women were not perceived as a good thing when it came to war and many generals either ignored them or gave them the worst job possible. Women chopped their hair off to look more like a man and they did not dress feminine. These were small contributions women had to do to be respected in the war. They still made great strides for feminism by joining the war effort and creating the first soviet women soldiers to fight combat in war.The 19th century brought new and better opportunities for women that they never had before. This not only happened in Russia, but all over the world. Russia was the first county to start the feminist movement and make changes to their government. The Russian’s set the foundation for the rest of the world to follow. They also were the first country to give women the right to vote. Women were treated like property and no better than slaves before the feminist movement of the 1900s. They had poor working conditions when they did work and had no rights as a human. Vladimir Lenin and Inessa Armand were the leaders of this movement. Inessa started many organizations, newspapers, and schools for women to help them and get them the rights they deserved. Lenin was the male figurehead that came into power and made all of Inessa’s ideas a reality for the Soviet women. The Bolshevik party stood for liberation and progression; this is what attracted Inessa to it. Having the Bolsheviks and Lenin on her side for all of her ideas and things she wanted to change made it happen. The tsar was overthrown and Lenin came into power. This not only allowed for the laws to be changed, but also a women’s role in war changed as well. Women had to step up and join the workforce more than ever before when World War I began in 1914. Men were shipped off and they were replaced by women. Women also joined the war effort by being nurses. By the time World War II began, women attempted to enlist and volunteer for the war effort. Had Lenin still been in charge then, they would have been allowed, but since Stalin took control and reversed all of Inessa’s hard work, the women were initially denied. Eventually, the Soviets needed more bodies so women joined the war effort not only as nurses, but doctors, pilots, snipers, and more. This never would have happened 30 years prior. Inessa had big ideas and dreams for women and Lenin made them come true. The Soviet Union, communism, and the Bolshevik party proved to be corrupt in their collapse in the 1990s, but their effort for women will always be remembered. Without them, women would not have had the rights they did. The role of a women from solely a caretaker to an independent working women was changed thanks to the Soviet Union, Bolsheviks, Inessa, and Lenin.
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