10 November 1935
Comrades, what we have seen here today is a slice of the new life we call the collective life, the socialist life. We have heard the simple accounts of simple toiling people, how they strove and overcame difficulties in order to achieve success in socialist competition. We have heard the speeches not of ordinary women, but, I would say, of women who are heroines of labour, because only heroines of labour could have achieved the successes they have achieved. We had no such women before. Here am I, already years of age, I have seen many things in my time, I have seen many labouring men and women. But never have I met such women. They are an absolutely new type of people. Only free labour, only collective farm labour could have given rise to such heroines of labour in the countryside.
There were no such women, there could not have been such women in the old days.
And, indeed, just think what women were before, in the old days. As long as a woman was unmarried she was regarded as the lowest of toilers. She worked for her father, she worked ceaselessly, and her father would nevertheless keep reproaching her : "I feed you." When she married, she would work for her husband, she would work just as much as her husband would compel her to work, and her husband too would keep reproaching her : "I feed you." Woman in the countryside was the lowest of toilers. Naturally, no heroines of labour could arise among the peasant women under such conditions. Labour in those days was a curse to a woman, and she would avoid it as much as she could.
Only the collective farm life could have made labour a thing of honour, it alone could have bred genuine heroines in the countryside. Only the collective farm life could have destroyed inequality and put woman on her feet. That you know very well, yourselves. The collective farm introduced the workday. And what is the work-day? Before the work-day all are equal - men and women. He who has most work-days to his credit earns most. Here, neither father nor husband can reproach a woman with the fact that he is feeding her. Now, if a woman works and has work-days to her credit, she is her own master. I remember conversing with several women comrades at the Second Collective Farm Congress. One of them, from the Northern Territory, said :
"Two years ago no suitor would even have set his foot in our house. I had no dowry! Now I have five hundred work-days to my credit. And what do you think? Suitors give me no peace; they want to marry, they say. But I will take my time; I will pick out my own young man."
The collective farm has liberated women, and made her independent by means of the work-days. She no longer works for her father when she is unmarried, but works primarily for herself. And that is just what is meant by the emancipation of peasant women; that is just what is meant by the collective farm system which makes the working woman the equal of every working man. Only on these grounds, only under these conditions could such splendid women arise. That is why I regard today's meeting not as just an ordinary meeting of prominent people with members of the government, but as a solemn day, on which the achievements and capabilities of the emancipated labour of women are being demonstrated. I think the government ought to confer distinctions on the heroines of labour who have come here to report their achievements to the government.
How should this day be marked? We here, Comrades Voroshilov, Chernov, Molotov, Kaganovich, Orjonikidze, Kalinin, Mikoyan and myself have conferred together and have arrived at the idea of requesting the government to award our heroines of labour with the Order of Lenin, – the team leaders with the Order of Lenin, and the rank-and-file shock workers with the Order of the Banner of Labour. Comrade Maria Demchenko, of course, will have to be singled out specially.
Voroshilov: Good girl!
Molotov: The chief culprit!
Stalin: I think that Maria Demchenko, as the pioneer in this matter, in addition to being awarded the Order of Lenin, should receive the thanks of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, and the women collective farmers in her team should be awarded the Order of the Banner of Labour.
A voice: They are all present, except one. She is sick.
Stalin: The sick one must also be awarded. That is how we think of marking this day.
(Loud and prolonged applause. All rise.)Pravda