After the death of Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union saw a period of cultural liberalization that would come to be known as “the Thaw”. During this time, the rights of women expanded, from education becoming more accessible to the ban on abortions being lifted to women taking on more responsibilities in the work force. However, with these new freedoms came the old burdens: women were expected to be exemplary professionals during the day and then go home at night to be the ideal housewife/mother figure, leading to great stress for the average Soviet woman.
In the 1954 magazine article “It is Her Right” by E. Maksimova, the author addresses the intense workload borne by the average Soviet working mother and how Russian officials do little to help them by examining the cases of three professional women. The author first describes a day in the life of artificial leather factory supervisor Nataliia Mikhailovna Obukhovskaia, who spends all day supervising workers, then attending to party business and furthering her education with night courses before going home to tend to her daughter and ill brother, leaving her almost no personal time at all. Her coworker Maria Mikhailovna Danshina also works fulltime in addition to being the mother of two young children, and is unable to get her little daughter into daycare, forcing her to leave the child with her six-year-old brother as babysitter. Across town, bank inspector Nina Bubnova is unable to further her education and thus her career because she cannot find childcare for her daughter.
During the period of the Thaw, especially in the year 1954, Soviet women seemed to be caught between two lifestyles. On the one hand, they were expected to be ideal wives and mothers, but they were also expected to help the Soviet Union and the Party by being strong members of the work force. This balance left Soviet women with almost no time to better themselves, as they were always taking care of someone or balancing some task. I think that this draws an interesting parallel to professional American mothers today, who often struggle to “have it all”. It is interesting to see how Soviet gender roles in the 1950s are really not all that far off from modern American gender roles.
November 9, 2015 @ 6:57 pm
Thank you for sharing, I also think it is interesting how the struggles of Soviet women compare to those in America. As women, we are consistently trying to better ourselves, whether it be personal or career-related, and it’s easy to see how women in Soviet Russia can become bogged down with caring for one’s family while also contributing to the societal workforce.
John Mark Mastakas
November 9, 2015 @ 9:29 pm
I think that the feelings of getting caught between two roles in Women’s History is very common–this can be seen in multiple different countries where women are pushing for equal rights (United States and China). Nonetheless, the women were very brave for pushing the equalization of women at a time where a lot of changes were happening in the Soviet Union. Great post and thanks for sharing!
November 10, 2015 @ 1:39 am
This role was practically the opposite of the American stereotype in this time period. The American house had a stay at hoe mom who’s only job was that of the wife: food, cleaning, shopping, etc. Russia, though it may have a bit too much for the women, were decades ahead of America on this topic.
November 10, 2015 @ 2:28 am
Great post! As I was reading I saw that parallel between Soviet women in the 50s and American women in modern times as well. It really brings up the question of how the Soviets dealt with it and how the situation progressed.
November 10, 2015 @ 2:45 am
It’s funny how “having it all” can also be a “double burden.” (Actually maybe that isn’t so funny?) It’s interesting that you see similarities between Soviet women in the 50s and women in the US today. Why do you think Soviet women accepted the double burden so readily?
November 10, 2015 @ 4:07 am
When we talk about the thaw in the mid 50s the rise of working women could definitely be viewed as a prime example to the almost foreign progressive thinking done in Russia during this time! loved the post
November 10, 2015 @ 4:15 am
its interesting to me that despite the emphasis on equality the burden of child care was still left with women, you would think in the great socialist utopia of the USSR all would share equally in that responsibility.
November 10, 2015 @ 4:21 am
This is a great post! It is so ironic that the “Iron Curtain” treated women much better than the post-fall Russia back in the 1990s. The balance must have been extremely difficult for the women in the country, but I’m sure they felt very respected and enjoyed their rights which were unavailable in many other countries at that time.