Step 2 Part 1 Fact Sheet 5: revolution!


The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia can be considered one of the great egalitarian social experiments of the 20th century and therefore would seem like a good place to look for gender equality.

During the first years after the Revolution, there were a lot of radical ideas about equality and some were put into practice. After 1917, new social insurance laws were passed to ensure women’s equal rights - including the world’s first state-funded maternity leave policy. Additionally, ambitious plans were made in the 1920s for public day care centers, laundries, and cafeterias that would liberate women from the “crushing drudgery” (Lenin’s phrase) of housework and release them into the workforce. Nevertheless, the Soviets left bourgeois family structures and traditional gender roles largely in place, and laws on the books to support women did little to undermine patriarchy.

Lots has been written about the position of women in the Soviet Union, but plans for real equality were sabotaged and suppressed from the start. Bolshevism was a “men’s movement,” and this contributed to its demise. By failing to liberate women from the domestic sphere, the Bolsheviks inadvertently preserved the system they wanted to destroy. For, “women produced children; women and children formed families; and families ‘engendered capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously, and on a massive scale.’” (source)