Yet, as studies, such as Jane Mc Dermid and Anna Hillyar’s book have shown, women activists and workers played a crucial role throughout 1917.In the months leading up to the October Revolution, for example, working class women and Bolshevik activists staged a number of strikes and demonstrations to protest the continuation of the war and poor working conditions.
These intellectuals, mostly men and a few noblewomen, debated in salons and the press on the issue of women’s legal and social status and their role in the family.
The campaign for women’s suffrage and equality in Russia gained momentum during and after the 1905 Revolution.
Students from the newly established women’s higher courses played a particularly key role in shaping the social democratic views among urban workers and many later became leading Bolshevik figures. A tireless advocate for women’s and educational issues, Krupskaia married Lenin in 1898 and held prominent roles within the Bolshevik party until her death in 1939.
From the mid-19th century, Russian intellectuals, such as the anarchist Petr Kropotkin, began to take an interest in the ‘woman question’.
They argued that these ‘bourgeois’ women could not understand the needs of workers and peasant women and that the women’s movement threatened working-class solidarity.
On the newly-established Women’s Day in 1914, a group of Bolshevik women, including Konkordiia Samoilova, Nadezhda Krupskaia and Inessa Armand, published the first Russian socialist women’s journal, After the February Revolution, the fight for women’s suffrage increased, in line with the general call for the implementation of democratic reforms.World War I brought even greater freedom – and hardship – as thousands of women were mobilised to fill roles left vacant by men at the front and to support the war effort.In the 1860s and 70s, a number of women joined the populist revolutionary movement that was gathering momentum in Russia.Historians generally agree that the February Revolution began in Petrograd on International Women’s Day, 23 February (Old Style: 8 March) 1917, when thousands of women from different backgrounds took to the streets demanding bread and increased rations for soldiers’ families.There is, however, disagreement as to whether the women-led demonstrations were spontaneous, or whether they were a result of conscious political action.Many of the women were from noble or bureaucratic families and had studied abroad, where they had formed and participated in women’s study circles.Calling for social justice and political change, these women took advantage of the revolutionary mood sparked by Alexander II’s reforms to serfdom, the judiciary and education.For Soviet critics, Western historians gave too much emphasis to the fall of tsarism rather than to the necessity for its overthrow in the February Revolution, and exaggerated the degree of social harmony in general while underestimating the role of the proletariat led by the Bolsheviks at the beginning of 1917.Moreover, the charge continued, there has been too much talk of the democratic gains of a spontaneous February being liquidated by the totalitarian reaction of an engineered October, when in fact the two Revolutions are complementary rather than antagonistic) In fact, however, West and East have been moving closer together in their interpretation, to such an extent that the two basic views overlap.Along with educated women of the intelligentsia, female workers and peasants also called for the right to vote.In March 1917, the largest women’s demonstration in Russia’s history took place in Petrograd.