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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32159

Title: "Red 'Teaspoons of Charity': Zhenotdel, Russian Women, and the Communist Party, 1919-1930."
Authors: Patterson, Michelle Jane
Advisor: Viola, Lynne
Department: History
Keywords: Women and Communism - Soviet Union - History; Women in politics - Soviet Union - History; Soviet Union- Social Groups and Policy- 1920s
Zhenotdel
Issue Date: 29-Feb-2012
Abstract: After the Bolshevik assumption of power in 1917, the arguably much more difficult task of creating a revolutionary society began. In 1919, to ensure Russian women supported the Communist party, the Zhenotdel, or women’s department, was established. Its aim was propagating the Communist party’s message through local branches attached to party committees at every level of the hierarchy. This dissertation is an analysis of the Communist party’s Zhenotdel in Petrograd/ Leningrad during the 1920s. Most Western Zhenotdel histories were written in the pre-archival era, and this is the first study to extensively utilize material in the former Leningrad party archive, TsGAIPD SPb. Both the quality and quantity of Zhenotdel fonds is superior at St.Peterburg’s TsGAIPD SPb than Moscow’s RGASPI. While most scholars have used Moscow-centric journals like "Kommunistka", "Krest’ianka" and "Rabotnitsa", this study has thoroughly utilized the Leningrad Zhenotdel journal "Rabotnitsa i krest’ianka" and a rich and extensive collection of Zhenotdel questionnaires. Women’s speeches from Zhenotdel conferences, as well as factory and field reports, have also been folded into the dissertation’s five chapters on: organizational issues, the unemployed, housewives and prostitutes, peasants, and workers. Fundamentally, this dissertation argues that how Zhenotdel functioned at the local level revealed that the organization as a whole was riven with multiple and conflicting tensions. Zhenotdel was unworkable. Zhenotdel’s broad goals were impeded because activists lacked financial and jurisdictional autonomy, faced party ambivalence and hostility, and operated largely with volunteers. Paradoxically, these volunteer delegates were “interns,” yet they were expected to model exemplary behaviour. With limited resources, delegates were also expected to fulfil an ever-expanding list of tasks. In addition, Zhenotdel’s extensive use of unpaid housewife delegates in the 1920s anticipated the wife-activist movement of voluntary social service work in the middle to late 1930s. There were competing visions for NEP society, and Zhenotdel officials were largely unable to negotiate the importance of their organization to other party and state organizations. Overall, this suggests that although the political revolution was successful in the 1920s, there were profound limits to the social and cultural revolution in this era.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32159
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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