“EQUALITY OF WOMEN IN THE U.S.S.R.,” A SEMINAR FOR REPRESENTATIVES OF THE MEMBER COUNTRIES OF THE COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN, U.N. ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL, AND FOR REPRESENTATIVES OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL BODIES.
REPORT BY N. POPOVA,
Secretary of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions
September 1956, Moscow
FOREIGN LANGUAGES PUBLISHING HOUSE
Printed in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
The problem of equality of women has its own long history. Through the centuries, during most of the history of human society, women have been in a dependent, subordinate and unequal position.
Women had no right to take part in state, social or political life; they were kept from socially productive labour and were confined to housekeeping.
The petty, dull and stupefying work in the kitchen and the home fettered the women, isolated them from social life and deprived them of opportunities for development and for manifesting their intellectual faculties.
The ideal of woman had been defined in ancient times by the Roman formula of a housewife who “stayed at home and spun wool.”
Even after the collapse of the feudal order the legal status of women has hardly changed. Children and the kitchen remained her lot as of yore.
Addressing the Parisians Chomatt, the public prosecutor of the Paris Commune of the 1789-93 French Revolution, said: “Nature said to woman – be a woman! Bringing up children, the cares of the home, the sweet labours of motherhood – this is the sphere of your endeavours, for this I shall elevate you to the rank of goddess of the home-temple and with your charm, your beauty and your virtue you will rule over all that surrounds you. Silly women who want to be men, what else do you need?”
This is the essence of the attitude to woman which has long prevailed in society and which has not been fully overcome as yet.
With the development of industrial production woman began to work in industry and though she participated in the creation of material values she continued to be deprived of rights. In plants and factories she did the most unskilled and poorly paid work receiving much less for it than did man. She had no access to skilled work. The doors to leading economic, state and cultural activity were closed to her. A working woman continued to be burdened with the cares of the home and with rearing children. She thus carried a double burden.
Could women accept this situation? Certainly, not!
That is why all through this time women struggled along with the best progressive people of all countries and nations for their equality, for a worthy place in society and in the family.
In the beginning of the 20th century and only after a long struggle and by force of public opinion did the women in some countries win certain rights to participate in the political life, though they still remained unequal economically.
In 1917 the Great October Socialist Revolution declared for the first time in history the full political, economic and civic equality of women. This realized the programme demands of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for the emancipation of women, based on a scientific analysis of the development of human society and stating that without the participation of women in socially productive labour they could have neither real equality nor freedom.
On the initiative of V. I. Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state and leader of the Communist Party, all the old laws which had kept woman in a humiliating position and deprived her of her rights were abrogated in the very first days of the Soviet rule. V. I. Lenin wrote that “of the laws which had kept woman in an inferior position not a single one remained.”
The new legislation and the conditions set up for its realization have made Soviet woman free and equal in all walks of life. Woman has awakened to a new life and has grown into a tremendous force in the new Soviet society.
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To grasp the full and enormous significance of this fact we must recall the position of Woman in tsarist Russia.
Complete inequality in society and in the family was characteristic of woman in old Russia. Woman had no rights either in the economic, political or civic spheres.
As in the other countries the Russian women were drawn into factory work in the course of industrial development. But of the total number of hired women only 13 per cent were employed in large industry and construction, while a great many of them worked as house servants (55 per cent) or as farm-hands for landlords and the rural bourgeoisie (25 per cent).
It is characteristic that of all women who worked in industry two-thirds were engaged in the textile and sewing industries where the lowest wages and the worst working conditions prevailed. The remaining third of women who were employed in the other branches of industry and in building worked mainly as unskilled and poorly paid hands.
It was, certainly, out of question for a woman to become an engineer, a superintendent of a shop or a director of an enterprise. For the same work woman was paid much less than man who also earned starvation wages.
Studying the problem of wages and productivity of labour, Academician Strumilin, well-known Russian economist, wrote that the wages of working men and working women in various branches of industry in 1914 constituted;
Women’s earnings in relation to those of men (in %)
As you see, on the eve of the First World War the earnings of women throughout the industry constituted a little more than half of the men’s earnings.
Women were particularly discriminated against in the metal-processing industry where the daily wages of women workers were only 41.1 per cent of men’s wages. Thus, women could not even think of equal pay for equal work with men.
According to official statistics on the duration of the working day in Russia, the average working day for women in 1913 was 9.7 hours. It was even higher in certain branches of industry. Thus, it was 10 and more hours in the ore-mining, china, wood-working, matchmaking, woollen, leather and furs, and flour branches. A system of overtime work, which was widely used, led to a considerable prolongation of the working day. Refusal to put in overtime work led to the firing of the woman worker and to smaller wages. Including overtime work, the duration of the women worker’s working day in 1913 averaged 11-12 hours.
These data refer to the large industries with a body of workers of about 3.3 million persons controlled by the factory inspection. As regards the petty and handicraft industries, which accounted for over 5 million workers and handicraftsmen, the duration of the working day was not regulated by legislation and was considerably higher than in the large industries.
Striving to increase their profits the employers economized mainly by providing poor working conditions. Women had to work under poor sanitary and extremely unhealthful conditions. Here is what the magazine Working Woman (No. 4, 1914) reported about the tobacco factory in Rostov-on-Don:
“The premises are small; the machines and other devices are so crowded that some of them leave no passage-way. The ventilation in many departments is unsatisfactory. The tobacco dust is so thick that it is hard to see a few paces away. It is mainly women who work under these terrible unhygienic conditions since they constitute nine-tenths of the workers employed in this industry.”
Nor were the working conditions any better in the other branches of industry.
The law on workers’ insurance covering disability was passed in Russia under the pressure of workers’ struggles only in 1912. But even this law made the workers bear the brunt of the expenses for their insurance. Before 1912 accident compensation was entirely at the discretion of the manufacturers.
There was no occupational training for women in tsarist Russia, while the very few private institutions aimed to teach woman primarily housekeeping, needlework and dressmaking; their objectives did not include the training of women in skilled industrial occupations. The system of apprenticeship at the industrial enterprises was simply a way of providing the enterprises with cheap labour power. The apprentices were most shamelessly exploited: running errands, learning by only observing, and endless mockery – such was the long course of trials and tribulations which every young working woman had to pass before she was allowed to take her place at a machine.
There was essentially no chance for woman in tsarist Russia to engage in skilled labour. She was regarded as labour power capable only of auxiliary and, consequently, poorly paid work.
Starvation wages, excessively long workdays, poor sanitary working and living conditions, no social insurance or labour protection, unbearably hard work, total inequality and endless humiliation were the lot of the working women at the enterprises of pre-revolutionary Russia.
In other spheres – state or cultural – woman could not apply herself at all.
The tsarist civil service regulations categorically prohibited the employment of women in any administrative capacity.
With not only a secondary or higher, but in most cases even an elementary, education out of her reach and a total lack of children’s institutions woman had still less chance to participate in socially productive labour.
The position of the peasant women who constituted the bulk of the female population of old Russia was even worse. Working from sun-up to sun-down they lived a miserable, beggarly life. There was communal land-tenure in Russia, and the land was periodically redistributed among the peasants. A peasant woman, however, had no right to an allotment; economically she fully depended on her husband, father or brother.
In addition to the general discrimination, the women in the outlying eastern regions of tsarist Russia were also oppressed as a result of tribal and religious customs and traditions. There a woman could be bought and sold like a commodity, could be subjected to corporal punishment and even killed with impunity. She wore a veil as long as she lived, was segregated and doomed to permanent seclusion.
The distressing conditions of women deprived of all rights in the Russian Empire were further aggravated by the country’s economic backwardness and the extraordinarily low living standards of the population.
It is a matter of common knowledge that with her immense territory, rich natural resources and minerals, and a large population Russia at that time considerably lagged in her industrial development behind the advanced capitalist countries.
In 1913 Russia, the USA, Germany, Britain and France produced:
Unit of measure
Millions of tons
In the volume of industrial production Russia was behind the principal capitalist countries by approximately 50-100 years. As for her agriculture it was in its greater part a small-commodity and frequently just a natural economy.
Both the industry and agriculture were extremely backward technically. According to the 1910 census, for example, the most primitive implements, such as wooden ploughs and harrows, were used in agriculture.
It should be emphasized that even this backward Russian national economy was ruined by the First World War. Soviet power, as you see, received a very onerous heritage. Enormous damage was also inflicted on the country’s economy by the foreign military intervention of 1918-21, when 14 countries raised arms against the young and as yet weak Soviet Republic; the country also suffered greatly from the economic blockade that followed. As a result the 1921 industrial output constituted only 31 per cent of the extremely low 1913 level of industrial development.
Such was the state of the country’s economy at the time the Soviet power began its peaceful construction. Such was the economic point of departure for the young Land of the Soviets.
Only if you know this will you get the right idea of all we have managed to do for the development of our country’s economy and, on this basis, for the actual emancipation of women. It is well known that only by setting up the requisite economic and social conditions for the entire people is it really possible to improve the position of women and to bring about their equality.
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It has already been mentioned that the October Revolution legislatively declared the full equality of women in all walks of life.
Since the subject of my report is the equality of women in the economic sphere I shall confine myself only to this aspect of the question.
Decrees “On equal pay for equal work for men and women,” “On mother and child protection,” etc., were issued very soon after the Revolution.
But this was only a legal abolition of the inequality of women. For full emancipation and equality, woman had to be given real opportunities to work in any branch of the national economy according to her desires and inclinations.
I must emphasize that the right of woman to work is one of the most important demands of the world women’s movement in the struggle for the emancipation of women. You, undoubtedly, know that this question is discussed in the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, in the ILO and in other international organizations. And this is understandable since the right to work in the broad sense means not only the economic independence of woman, the opportunity to participate in socially productive labour on an equal footing with man, but also the right to take part in the organization and management of the country’s economic life.
The right of women to work has been actually realized in our country on the basis of the country’s rapid economic development. The public ownership of the means of production, the planned national economy, the industrialization of the country and the change from the small-commodity beggarly farming to large-scale, collective mechanized agriculture enabled us to overcome our economic backwardness and ensure the swift progress of the country’s entire national economy.
The following table offers ample testimony by showing the increase in the physical volume of the gross industrial output in the U.S.S.R. from 1913 to 1955 (in % % of 1913).
Industry as a whole
Hence, considerable headway has been made in the development of the industry in Soviet time. The Soviet Union has been transformed from an agrarian country into an industrial power. The industrialization determined the technical reconstruction of the entire national economy which was accomplished on the basis of up-to-date engineering by a mechanization of the labour-consuming processes. This circumstance enabled woman more extensively to apply herself in the leading branches of production.
Enormous changes have also occurred in agriculture. Large farms have been organized on the basis of collectivization. This has made it possible to use a great deal of machinery which has considerably facilitated the hard agricultural labour.
Because of the rapid development of our socialist economy which does not know any crises or any of their dreadful results we were able to liquidate unemployment as early as the beginning of the 30’s and to provide full-time employment for the population, which offered the women a real guarantee of the right to work.
In connection with the considerable rise in the population’s standard of living the economic position of women has also improved.
Let me give you some figures demonstrating how Soviet women exercised their right to work before the war.
From 1929 to 1941 the number of women workers and employees increased more than three-and-a-half-fold and constituted about 12 millions or 38.4 per cent of all the working people.
In industry the share of female labour increased from 27.9 per cent in 1929 to 41.6 per cent in 1939.
In tsarist Russia of all the women working for hire 80 per cent were employed as house servants or farm-hands, but in 1939 only 2.4 per cent were employed as house servants or day labourers, while the rest worked in various branches of production, in the state apparatus, in educational and scientific institutions.
These results in the realization of the women’s right to work were effected by the enormous efforts of the Soviet state, the trade unions and other public organizations which have set up all the conditions woman needs to work in her chosen field.
What has actually been done?
Tremendous and many-sided work has been done to raise the cultural level of women, to set up professional schools, courses, technical and other educational establishments where women may acquire professions and improve their skills; an extensive state network of children’s institutions to help the working mothers bring up their children has also been organized.
The upshot of it all was that already in 1941, on the eve of the war of the Soviet people against the German aggressor who attacked our country, women played an important part in the entire life of the country.
The war against Hitler Germany seriously affected the development of our economy. It made us mobilize all our forces, all our inner resources to ensure victory over the enemy.
It is also well known how devastating the war was and what damage it inflicted on our country.
31,850 industrial enterprises, 98,000 collective farms, 1,876 state farms, 2,890 machine and tractor stations, 1,710 towns and more than 70,000 villages were destroyed as a result of the war. About 25 million people were left without roofs over their heads. I am not saying anything about the millions of maimed and crippled, of the families who have lost their breadwinners, fathers, husbands and sons; I am not dwelling on the fact that each day of war required an enormous quantity of planes, guns and shells. The Soviet people spent tremendous material and labour resources to produce them. The Soviet people were forced to spend their energies not to advance their economic development, but to ensure victory over the enemy and then to restore what had been destroyed during the war. Of course, this could not but affect the living standards of our people, including the economic position of women.
The enormous constructive role of our women manifested itself particularly vividly during the hard years of war. With a profound consciousness of her duty to her country and to all mankind the Soviet woman worked selflessly in the rear replacing man in various branches of work. The Soviet woman worked heroically in the name of the freedom of her country, in the name of the safety of her children, for the sake of saving civilization and protecting the independence of other peoples.
After the war women could not and would not stand aside from the immense reconstructive work that had to be done to improve the life of their people.
We are often reproached by some foreigners that our women work on construction jobs and on road improvement. This situation is the result of the destructive war in which millions of the younger and physically stronger men were killed. We would prefer to see woman mainly at a control panel, at an automatic machine, in the position of engineer, teacher, physician, agronomist, or doing administrative work, etc. But would it have been at all possible for the Soviet Union to defeat the enemy and rise from the ashes and ruins without the help of the women? Could we possibly have reconstructed in 4-5, years the towns and villages, the plants and factories, the schools and homes destroyed by the war without the active participation of the women?
It is our aim to have our women work only where no great physical effort is required and we are doing all we can to bring it about.
In 1947 the Soviet Union reached the pre-war level of industrial production. In 1955 the pre-war level of industrial output was exceeded more than three-fold and that of 1913 more than 27-fold.
This rapid development of the country’s economy was the basis for the growth of the national income about three-quarters of which is used in our country for satisfying the personal needs of the population; it serves as the basis for the general rise in the living standard of our people and also for the improvement of the economic position of women.
Suffice it to say that during 1951-55 the national income of the U.S.S.R. increased by 68 per cent. On the basis of a systematic rise in the productivity of labour and the cut in prices the real wages of factory, office and other workers increased in 1955 by 39 per cent compared with 1950, while the real income of the peasants increased by 50 per cent. The population is supplied more foodstuffs and consumer goods with each passing year. Extensive housing construction is under way.
The rapid development of the national economy and the rise in the living standards of the population have set up favourable conditions for the realization of the fullest and all-round equality of women in the economic sphere.
As you know the Constitution of the U.S.S.R., which declares the equality of Soviet women in all walks of life, lays special emphasis on the guarantees of the women’s rights and to the means of their realization.
Article 122 of the Constitution reads:
“…The possibility of exercising these rights is ensured by women being accorded an equal right with men to work, payment for work, rest and leisure, social insurance and education, and by state protection of the interests of mother and child, state aid to mothers of large families and unmarried mothers, maternity leave with full pay, and the provisions of a wide network of maternity homes, nurseries and kindergartens.”
Taking advantage of their right to work Soviet women now play an important part in the various branches of the national economy and culture. They now constitute 45.4 per cent of all the factory, office and other workers engaged in industry. In 1954 the percentage of women workers in machine-building was 44: electrical engineering – 47, radio engineering – 55, machine-tool and tool-building – 36, transport machine-building – 40, and heavy machine-building – 33. In some branches of production their proportion is even greater. Thus, for example, there are 50.2 per cent women workers in the foods industry, and 51.6 per cent in the meat and dairy products industry.
The percentage of women among specialists having higher education is 53, special secondary education – 66; among economists, statisticians, planning and trade experts – 69 per cent; among doctors – 76, and among all medical workers – 91; among lawyers – 31; teachers and university graduates (excepting lawyers, doctors and economists), library and culture workers – 72 per cent.
The labour of Soviet women engaged in industry has changed qualitatively. Owing to the mechanization and automation of production the number of women working on complex machinery requiring knowledge and skill rather than physical effort increases with each passing year. Thus, in 1954 there were 41 per cent working women and their girl apprentices operating automatic machinery, 69 per cent metal drillers, 70 per cent turret-lathe operators, 51 per cent grinders, 38 per cent milling-machine operators, 64 per cent machine operators and 42 per cent locomotive and motor drivers.
Many women act as organizers of production, work as fore-women, team leaders, shop superintendents and directors of enterprises; 480,000 women with higher and secondary special education work as engineers and technicians.
I have already mentioned the fact that the collective-farm system and the high mechanization of agriculture have raised many millions of peasant women to the level of creative endeavour. You will no longer see women cutting wheat with a sickle or threshing it by hand. 1,439,000 tractors (in terms of 15 h.p. units), 338,000 grain combines, 544,000 lorries and millions of other complex agricultural machines and implements were operated in agriculture in 1955. Woman has firmly taken the place of organizer of agricultural production. It is the usual thing today to see a woman in the position of team leader, manager of a farm, head or member of the board of the collective farm; 41 per cent of the agronomists, livestock breeders, veterinarians and foresters with a higher education are women; women with a secondary education constitute 46 per cent of the same specialists.
Let us now consider in greater detail the conditions and guarantees which have enabled Soviet woman so extensively to realize her right to work, and to play so important a part in the economic life of the country.
One of the most important conditions is the opportunity for employment for any woman who wants to work. The absence of unemployment and the rapid development of the economy offer woman unlimited opportunities for applying herself in any field of endeavour.
Age is no obstacle to the employment of women in our country. We do not and can not have the problem of employment of older women, which occupies so much the women of other countries. In the U.S.S.R. even the women who receive old-age pensions frequently continue working if they want to. There are especially many of these among the women teachers, physicians and engineers who even in advanced age do not care to quit their favourite occupation.
We know that the last session of the Commission on the Status of Women adopted a decision to put on the agenda the question “of working women, including working mothers who bear family responsibilities, and measures for improving their position.” This problem concerns primarily married women.
It is also well known that in some countries married women are either dismissed from work or not hired. Their right to work is also restricted by the absence of children’s institutions where they might keep their children while working.
In our country marriage or motherhood are no reasons for dismissal or refusal to be hired. Moreover, Soviet laws severely punish anyone who would dare infringe on the rights of married women or mothers.
In the U.S.S.R. we have the necessary conditions to give mothers a chance to participate in socially productive labour. State women’s labour protection (of which I shall tell you somewhat later) and various children’s institutions – crèches, kindergartens, children’s clubs (houses and palaces of Young Pioneers and school children), sports, technical and biological children’s stations, and extended-day groups in schools help mothers bring up their children. While at work they do not have to worry about their children, who are in crèches or kindergartens under the supervision of teachers and physicians.
The annual extensively organized children’s summer vacations in Young Pioneers’ camps and country-homes serve the same purpose.
Of late the Soviet Government and the Communist Party have taken a series of new measures aimed at rendering the working mothers even greater aid in bringing up their children. Extended-day groups are being organized for this purpose in schools where the school children will remain after school-hours, do their home-work and take recreation under the supervision of teachers. In school they will also be able to get dinner for a small fee.
Similar groups of school children are being organized in clubs and under apartment-house managements.
Boarding-schools, which will be organized in our country on a wide scale, will also greatly help the working mothers and the mothers of large families in rearing their children; 285 new boarding-schools, where thousands of children live and study at full state expense, opened on September 1 of this year. The most favourable conditions for the proper physical and mental training of children have been set up in the boarding-schools. Children of unmarried mothers and mothers of large families are the first to be admitted to these schools.
One of the most important conditions, which enable Soviet women so extensively to apply themselves in the various economic spheres, is the right of woman to acquire an occupation or profession and to improve her skills. This right is realized on the basis of the universal, free and compulsory seven-year, and now ten-year, general schooling, and the easily accessible higher education.
The network of industrial and technical schools, secondary specialized schools and various courses, where women have the same unlimited chances as men to acquire the desired speciality or skill free of charge, has considerably expanded, compared with the pre-war period.
In addition, skilled workers are also trained directly in the shops of the enterprises by means of special courses or team and individual apprenticeship. Our legislation protects the rights of apprentices and requires that they be given normal conditions for training.
At the Tryokhgornaya Manufactura, one of the Moscow textile plants, where most of the 5,000 workers are women, the personnel is trained as follows. Different courses are simultaneously attended by 470 people; the school for young workers, which offers a secondary education, has an enrolment of 300; a secondary specialized school is training 100, while an engineering institute is teaching 60 more of the plant’s people. A special trade school is also training skilled workers for this enterprise.
The present-day composition of the Tryokhgornaya personnel is as follows: 90 people have a higher education, 231 people have a secondary technical education; the rest of the workers have ten- or seven-year schooling in addition to their production skills.
Let us take another enterprise where most of the workers are also women. It is the Kupavna fine woollens plant with a high labour productivity and high-quality production. The plant owes its success to the fact that all of its workers take every advantage of the opportunities to improve their skills. In addition to general-educational schools there is a network of special evening educational establishments at the plant. This is characteristic of most of the Soviet enterprises.
The following figures show the scope of personnel training in our country, of the improvement of the workers’ skills and of the extensive opportunities for women to acquire a profession on a par with men.
The total number of factory workers and workers of mass trades trained in all branches of the national economy:
1940 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,950,000
1950 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,626,000
1955 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,593,000
Skills improved by factory workers and workers of mass trades in all branches of the national economy:
1940 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,655,000
1950 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5,038,000
1955 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4,978,000
The millions of these skilled personnel include a big percentage of women.
One of the most important aspects in the problem of the equality of women is the chance for their promotion in work. This problem is closely connected with that of the women’s chances for acquiring a speciality and for improving their skills. Competence enables woman to win authority and recognition and, hence, her promotion. Special attention is devoted to the promotion of women in our country. Our trade-union and other public organizations frequently discuss the problem of promoting women to leading positions. Women promoted to higher posts are rendered practical help and support.
You will meet many women in leading positions who have come all the way from a rank-and-file worker to a leader, from a worker to a shop superintendent or director of an enterprise.
Here are several actual examples: Maria Shaitanova began working in 1924 as a machine operator in the cooky-shop of the Moscow Krasny Oktyabr Confectionery Factory. Somewhat later we saw her wrapping sweets in the candy-shop. From 1931 to 1937 she worked as laboratory technician and junior chemist in the factory’s central laboratory. Then came years of study and work in organizing the technical training of the personnel in the same factory. In 1951 Maria Shaitanova was promoted to the post of Director of the Moscow Babayev Confectionery Factory which she is heading to date. The fine results in the work of this factory, which is one of the foremost enterprises, denote the quality of her management.
The career of Anastasia Makarova, Director of the Moscow Bolshevik Confectionery Factory, is analogous. At first she was a rank-and-file worker, then she was engaged in some administrative capacity. In 1940 she was promoted to the position of shop superintendent and in 1947 to that of director of the same factory.
From rank-and-file worker to manager of an enterprise through extensive practical work and study in higher educational establishments is the career of many women, who occupy responsible positions in industry. These include Maria Ivanova – Director of the Moscow Yava Tobacco Factory, Antonina Smolnikova – Director of a Leningrad confectionery factory, Sofia Tsvetkova – Director of the Vichuga Textile Plant, Menzina Rzayeva – Director of the Volodarsky Factory in Azerbaijan, and many others.
In Turkmenistan, where there were hardly any literate women under the tsarist regime, 30 women are now heading industrial enterprises. In the small Tajik Union Republic, which was formerly also in the position of a tsarist colony, there are 240 women engineers and technicians, 80 shop superintendents and 286 forewomen, whereas before the Revolution you would not have met even a single literate and skilled working woman.
To give you a better picture of how our women developed and advanced, what difficulties they had to surmount in their way, I shall tell you about the peasant woman Pasha Angelina.
Pasha Angelina is the first Soviet woman to have taken a tractor steering wheel in her hands.
To become a tractor driver she had to overcome many difficulties because during the first years of the Soviet rule the ignorant and backward elements in the countryside resisted any attempt of a woman to step over the age-old prejudices and to take full advantage of the rights she had been granted.
Pasha Angelina remembers the day she drove her tractor out on the field for the first time. It was a long-awaited day, a day she had thoroughly prepared for. But she was stoned and the day ended for her on a hospital cot. Pasha Angelina did not give in. She has fought her way to the top and has become a foremost worker, an innovator. The country knows and loves her and the famous tractor team she is leading at the Staro-Beshevsk Machine and Tractor Station. The fate of this woman, who has mastered her machinery and who has become a model for many other girls and women, is typical. Angelina says that herself. Several years ago she received a biographical questionnaire from “Who Is Who” (New York). Pasha Angelina answered through the press: “The questionnaire was so detailed that it asked for the date of my wedding and my mother’s maiden name. But this detailed questionnaire lacked the main question: how have I, an illiterate farm-hand, become a state worker, a Deputy to the Supreme Soviet? Without this question ‘how?’ it is impossible to understand and appreciate the life of a Soviet person, and, consequently, my life. The main thing is not in my person, but in the fact that my rise is not an exception. I have risen together with the entire people, and that is the main thing.”
The working career of our women, their study and advancement in work proceed, as you see, by way of surmounting difficulties and through a struggle with prejudices and survivals of the past. It is no easy career as it may appear at first sight. But the main thing, as Pasha Angelina puts it, is that the promotion of women is not an exception, but the rule. Our women are advancing together with the entire Soviet people.
In setting up favourable conditions for the Soviet women to realize their right to work the Soviet state, in addition to organizing children’s institutions which help mothers in bringing up their children, has taken a number of measures to facilitate the work of women in doing their housekeeping.
We have a wide network of moderately priced dining – and lunch-rooms from which meals can be taken home. It should be mentioned that each enterprise, large institution and educational establishment has dining- and lunch-rooms and, therefore, many workers and employees take their meals there.
The sale of ready-to-cook foods is practised on an ever-increasing scale. The system of delivering foods to the homes is becoming ever more popular. Production of refrigerators, washing-machines, electric floor-waxers, vacuum cleaners and various devices for peeling and preparing vegetables and fruit is increasing. The number of laundries and repair shops is constantly growing and freeing women from such labour-consuming processes as washing, ironing and darning underwear and clothes. And last but not least our homes are improving, our flats are being gasified, there are more and more houses with central heating, hot and cold water, plumbing, baths, incinerators and lifts.
We are very well aware that we are still a long way from our goal, but we have set ourselves the task of surmounting the existing difficulties in the very near future.
Let us examine the working conditions of Soviet women in greater detail.
It would be no exaggeration to say that next to the right to work, the most important problem for the women of many countries is the implementation of the principle of equal pay for equal work.
We know the place this problem occupies in the activity of the Commission on the Status of Women of the UN Economic and Social Council, and the International Labour Organization. Much attention is devoted to it by various international women’s, trade-union, and other bodies. It was discussed at the World Women’s Congress of 1953, at the Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions, at the International Conference of Working Women and at many other international and national conferences and congresses.
That is why Convention No. 100 on equal pay for equal work, adopted by ILO, was met with approval.
The Presidiums of the Supreme Soviets of the U.S.S.R., Byelorussia and the Ukraine ratified this convention in 1956, thereby reaffirming the principle which has been followed in our country since the establishment of Soviet power. Soviet laws prescribe strict punishment for the least attempt to deviate from this rigid principle.
The experience of our country refutes the fairly widespread theory that the reimbursement of women’s labour on the same terms as that of men is a heavy burden for a country’s economy.
In the Soviet Union, men and women workers are paid in accordance with the quantity and quality of what they produce. All workers, men and women, of the same qualification categories and carrying out the same work are paid at the same piece rates.
Here is an example. At the Moscow Auto Works, 5th category workers Alexandra Kuznetsova and Ivan Glushko operate one and the same grinding machine during different shifts and do the same work. Their earnings are:
If a woman is an executive she likewise receives the same pay, which includes: the salary and bonuses which depend on the quantitative and qualitative results of the work. Here are some data from the Orjonikidze Machine-Tool Building Works, Moscow:
|Monthly pay in 1956, including bonuses (in rubles)|
Supt. of finishing shop.
Equal pay with men is received by women teachers, doctors, office employees and women of other professions.
Thus, Soviet women not only have a legal right to equal pay with men for equal work but also enjoy that right in practice.
Having created real conditions for the effectuation of the right of women to work, to learning a profession and to equal pay for equal work, the Soviet Government is doing everything to safeguard the labour of women and seeks to protect their health.
Taking into account the physiological peculiarities of women and the interests of maternity and child protection; Soviet labour legislation provides special guarantees on the protection of the labour of women.
First let us acquaint ourselves with what is being done to protect the labour of working people in general, men and women.
The decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of November 11, 1917 introduced an eight-hour working day for all working people.
In 1956, by decision of the Soviet Government, the working day for all working people was reduced by two hours on Saturdays and the eve of holidays without any cut in pay.
Beginning with 1957, all factory, office and other workers with an eight-hour working day will gradually go over to a seven-hour working day without any cut in pay. This measure will be completed by 1960.
On July 1, 1956, juveniles of both sexes (from 16 to 18 years) returned to the six-hour working day, which was introduced during the first days of Soviet rule but was temporarily increased to eight hours because of the difficulties of the war years.
All Soviet factories and offices annually grant their workers and employees a paid leave of from two weeks to two months depending on the character of the work.
Soviet labour protection legislation is a big independent theme for a report and I therefore cannot dwell on this question in detail. I shall only note that this legislation is based on a solicitude for people, for their health. Soviet laws establish sanitary-hygienic standards for the conditions of labour (lighting, ventilation, space, temperature of air, clothes lockers, showers, drinking water, greenery, and so forth), the observation of safety-first rules (machine guards to prevent injuries, protective masks during work with hot metal, and so on), issue of overalls, additional free special diets in harmful trades, etc.
State control of the observance of labour protection laws by the heads and managements of all enterprises, offices and economies is carried out by the technical inspectorate of the trade unions. Technical inspectors may make the head of any office, factory, plant or workshop administratively responsible for any violation of labour protection laws or raise the question with the courts or the prosecutor’s office of taking such an executive to court.
In the U.S.S.R. no enterprise may be put in operation without the sanction of state organs of the Industrial Sanitary Inspection and the trade unions’ technical inspectorate, which strictly see to the fulfilment of all labour protection rules and norms.
The scope and importance of the work being done in the sphere of labour protection may be gauged from the fact that in our country there are special labour protection research institutes in which thousands of highly trained scientists are working in close contact with industry.
All the above-said refers to the labour conditions of men and women alike.
But we have already noted that Soviet legislation has instituted special rules and guarantees on the protection of female labour.
What, then, are these guarantees?
The code of labour laws prohibits the employment of women on heavy or harmful work (Art.129,C. L. L.), such as work connected with the smelting and pouring of molten metal, rolling hot metal, cleaning gas mains. Women may not be employed in a number of branches of the chemical, printing, and meat industries, on a number of jobs in the railway, sea and local transport services as well as in the mining industry, construction and municipal economy.
As a result of greater mechanization and automation of industry and better safety engineering and industrial sanitation, women began to take jobs that were formerly closed to them, such as, for example, engine, tractor and lorry drivers.
As far back as in the 1930’s, the Government passed special rules “On the Labour Conditions of Women Tractor and Lorry Drivers,” which provided for a monthly medical examination of these women and, depending on the results of this examination, their transfer to other jobs; special tractor starting devices and cushioned seats; paid release from work for the menstrual period upon presentation of a medical certificate, and so forth.
At Soviet enterprises the mass employment of female labour has led to the opening of personal hygiene rooms which contain separate cabins with running warm water and all the necessary women’s personal hygiene articles. Trained nurses are in attendance at these rooms.
In our country particular care is devoted to the protection of the labour and health of mothers.
The law bars expectant and nursing mothers from overtime and night work as well as from business trips. On the recommendation of a doctor, the management of a factory or office is obliged to transfer an expectant mother to lighter work without reducing her former average pay.
To create favourable conditions for the normal development of babies and to protect the health of mothers, working women are, in addition to their annual leaves, granted maternity leaves. The duration of the latter is 56 days before and 56 days after the birth of the baby, i.e., 112 days or almost four months. In the event of an abnormal birth or the birth of more than one baby, the post-natal leave is longer.
It is important to stress that during this leave women receive full pay. Unlike the situation in certain countries, in the Soviet Union a management may not refuse to grant such a leave or dismiss the worker at the end of the leave.
The heads of factories and offices are charged with the responsibility of timing the regular leave to the maternity leave.
No manager has the right to refuse to hire an expectant or nursing mother or to cut her pay for these reasons.
In order to give the working mother the opportunity of feeding her baby normally and on time, she is, in addition to the regular rest and lunch break, allowed a paid break of at least half an hour every three and a half hours of work.
An approximately similar system of female labour protection is in force in the collective farms as well.
In the U.S.S. R. women have the same social insurance rights as men. Like the men, they receive grants out of the state social insurance funds in case of temporary disablement (pensions on account of old age and disability are paid out of social insurance funds from the state budget. There will be a special report on that).
A distinguishing feature of our social insurance is that workers do not bear the expense. The state social insurance fund is formed by contributions paid by factories and offices themselves.
If you glance at the estimate of any factory or office, you will see a special item headed “Deductions for the Social Insurance Fund.”
This state social insurance fund is administered by the trade unions. Local trade-union bodies determine the amount of temporary disablement grants against medical certificates. The size of a temporary disablement grant depends on the total length of service and on the length of uninterrupted service at a given factory or office.
Maternity grants, which I have mentioned, are likewise paid out of the state insurance fund, but their size is equal to the full average earnings of the women receiving maternity leave, i.e., 100 per cent.
The working woman is released from work in the event her child falls ill and draws a grant at the expense of the social insurance fund.
The Soviet woman has the right to rest on equal terms with men.
When the subject of labour protection was touched upon, it was pointed out that the working people of our country, whether they are men or women, annually receive a paid leave of from two weeks to two months depending on the kind of work.
In order to give the working people the opportunity of taking a good rest during their leaves, there are holiday homes, sanatoriums and resorts in the loveliest and climatically healthful places of our country. These are accessible to all factory, office and other workers, their families, and students. They will be dealt with in detail in another report. I should only like to note that about five million men and. women go to these holiday homes and resorts annually. The plan of our seminar provides for a trip to Sochi, one of our southern resorts where you shall see for yourselves how Soviet people spend their holidays.
In organizing the holidays of the working people, the Soviet Government and the trade unions devote particular attention to mothers. We have holiday homes that cater specially for mothers with children. The children are looked after and kept busy by nurses. Meanwhile, mothers can have a good rest and be with their children at the same time.
It should be noted that some of the factory, office and other workers spending their leaves at sanatoriums or holiday homes pay nothing for the passes, while others pay only 30 per cent of the cost. The remaining 70 per cent is borne by the trade unions which get the money from the state social insurance fund.
In summing up the aforesaid, it must be remarked that the economic position of the working people of our country is determined not only by their earnings but also by the expenses paid by the state for social and cultural undertakings. If it is taken into consideration that factory, office and other workers receive social insurance grants, free passes or passes at reduced rates to sanatoriums and holiday homes, similar passes to children’s establishments for their children, annual paid leaves, free medical attention, free tuition for their children at secondary schools and institutions of higher learning, allowances for mothers of many children and for unmarried mothers, stipends for students at universities, institutes and technical colleges, free vocational training and refresher courses, it will be found that they are receiving substantial additions to their earnings, additions that amount to nearly a third of their pay.
My report would be incomplete if I omitted mentioning the attitude of Soviet women to labour.
Here is what Maria Materikova, a foremost worker at the Rabochi Weaving and Spinning Mill, Leningrad, has to say on the subject: “Some women abroad think it strange that most Soviet women are working in all fields – industry, agriculture and cultural work. Actually, there is nothing strange in that. Soviet women work because by their labour they actively help to build a new life and raise the material and cultural standards of their people. I cannot imagine myself shut off even for a short period from the common work which is uniting our whole people into one family. There is no such hour in my life when I do not feel the pulse of my people, who are building a new society.”
Then, again, there is Shamama Gasanova, head of the May Day Collective Farm, Azerbaijan. She has three children. Her husband is a driver while she manages a huge farm. The people respect her and on her breast she wears two Hero of Socialist Labour stars. She is a Deputy to the Supreme Soviet. When asked if she wanted to be a housewife again and to have no interests other than her children and husband, she replied: “My children have all the care they need at the nursery school and at home they have their granny. Can one fenced off from the world by four walls be called happy? No, and while I have the strength I want to be with the people and to work for the people. I know what fruits my labour will bear and my children will be proud of their mother.”
Take the case of Marina Soboleva, the wife of the director of a factory and the mother of three children. She was a technician, but when her children began to appear one after another she wanted to devote more time to their upbringing and left her job. When her children grew up, Marina came for advice. She wanted to know how she could best apply her abilities. She said she had no worries. She could sew, embroider and knit and was on the school committee. But all that did not satisfy her. She wanted to have a job that would draw her closer to public activity, give her the opportunity of living a full life, of being helpful to the entire people.
The aspirations and thoughts of these women are characteristic of the majority of Soviet women.
Our women are working or seeking to work not only because their earnings add to the family budget or because it makes them economically independent. One of the reasons is that they want to share the common interests of the people and to contribute their mite to that great and truly majestic work of construction that the Soviet people are engaged in for the sake of a brighter life and their children’s happiness.
We may boldly say that labour is becoming a requirement of Soviet people, of Soviet women.
Labour is honoured in our country. Anybody, be it a man or a woman, who is a good worker, enjoys public respect. The Soviet Government has instituted the following decorations to be awarded to men and women for exemplary work: Medal for Valorous Labour, the Order of the Red Banner of Labour and, lastly, the highest award – the Order of Lenin and the title of Hero of Socialist Labour.
* * *
In my report I naturally could not dwell at sufficient length on all questions connected with the equality of women in the economic field or on the economic position of women. However, I count on my report being supplemented by personal contact between the participants of the seminar and our women at factories, offices and collective farms and by a study of their labour conditions.
Another point I should like to make is that in our country the big and complicated problem of improving the economic position of women and their conditions of labour is not considered as solved.
We frankly admit that we have our difficulties and shortcomings. For example, we still have cases when a manager violates labour legislation in respect to the protection of female labour, while the trade unions do not always take timely measures against such a manager. There are cases when the management of an enterprise does not ensure the building of children’s and service establishments in time. After the severe destruction wrought by the war, in spite of the fast rates of construction, there is still a fairly acute housing problem. We have not yet attained the standard of living we should like to have.
We sharply and openly criticize our failings at meetings, conferences, congresses and in the press. We accept all just criticism as that helps us to take effective measures to eliminate shortcomings.
But our shortcomings stem from the difficulties of growth and not of decline. Most of the difficulties arise in consequence of our country’s extreme backwardness in the past and of the losses that our national economy sustained as a result of two world wars, foreign intervention and civil war.
Moreover, in their development, the Soviet people are moving along unblazed trails and, naturally, quite a few difficulties arise on that uninvestigated road. It could not have been otherwise, for we are building a new society which has no precedent in the annals of mankind, a society of which many progressives could only dream.
During our advance we have surmounted and shall continue to surmount these difficulties. Today, our people are working on the tremendous tasks set by the Sixth Five Year Plan of National-Economic Construction (1956-60).
In the course of that period our country’s industrial output is scheduled to grow by 65 per cent. That means that output will be 5.3 times greater than in 1940. The plan envisages the further mechanization and automation of industry at a rapid rate. Automation reduces the expenditure of physical labour to a minimum and thus creates the most favourable conditions for a still broader employment of women. The level of industrial development that has been attained is giving the Soviet Government the opportunity of promoting the swift advance not only of the production of the means of production but also of the production of consumer goods, which will increase by 60 per cent. For instance, the output of footwear, clothes and underwear will increase by more than one and a half times. Much more linen and the highest grades of woollen fabrics will be produced.
In 1960, the total intake of grain will reach 11,000 million poods and the output of meat and milk will be more than doubled.
During those years, the country’s national income will increase by 60 per cent. That will allow raising the real earnings of factory, office and other workers by an average of 30 per cent, while the incomes of the collective farmers in cash and in kind will grow by at least 40 per cent.
In its effort to improve the housing situation as speedily as possible, the Soviet Government intends to build twice as much floor-space during the Sixth Five- Year Plan as during the preceding five-year period. That means that state funds alone will cover the building of some 205 million square metres of floor-space in towns and cities. The buildings going up will have maximum conveniences. Besides, the Government will do all to encourage and help people to build private homes on their personal savings and on state credits. Housing construction is expanding in the countryside as well.
There will be a sharp increase in the output of comfortable and inexpensive furniture and its quality will be improved.
Pursuing the line of rendering over-all assistance to working mothers and of creating conditions, which would help women to combine their work with their duties as mothers and housewives, the Sixth Five-Year Plan envisages the building of 2.4 times more children’s establishments than were built during the preceding five-year plan. Thus, there will be 44 per cent more accommodation at crèches and 45 per cent more at nursery schools. Every year will see an increase in the number of boarding-schools and extended-day groups at schools.
The network of service establishments, laundries, dressmaking establishments, clothes and footwear repair shops is growing. There will be a substantial increase in the output of machines and articles that lighten household work – household electric appliances, washing and sewing machines, improved kitchen utensils.
The number of public dining-rooms, cafes and buffets selling inexpensive dishes will be considerably increased. More ready-to-cook food of all kinds will be put on sale. All this will save the labour of women in housework.
The question is being discussed of instituting a shorter working day for mothers with small children. A seven-hour working day will likewise be introduced, while the working’ day on underground jobs will be shortened to six hours and the wages and salaries of low-paid factory, office and other workers will be raised. The pension scheme has been basically improved. More and more schools, clubs, theatres, libraries, maternity homes, hospitals, and homes for the aged are being opened.
All these measures will facilitate the further improvement of the living standards of people and of the working and living conditions of women and will provide them with greater opportunities of participating in industrial, cultural and socio-political activity.
The Soviet people met the programme of further developing the country and raising the living standards of the population with tremendous satisfaction.
Soviet women are confident that the far-going Sixth Five-Year Plan will be fulfilled and that the Soviet people will thereby take another big stride along the path of happiness and prosperity.
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