The victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution opened the way to resolve the woman issue in Russia drastically. The women’s movement became a workers’ and peasants’ movement aimed at supporting the socialist movement, the defense of the socialist motherland, the involvement of all women into political and social activity. In November 1918, in Moscow, on the initiative of I. F. Armand, A. M. Kollontai, K. N. Samoilova, the First All-Russian Congress of working women and peasants was called where V. I. Lenin spoke. The Congress defined the women’ place in the struggle for socialism and laid the ogranizational bases of the women’s movement in Soviet conditions. Women’ departments were established within central and local party structures.
The Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) program adopted by the 8th Party Congress in 1919 proclaimed that the party in its activities stands not only to formal, based on Law, but actual suffrage for women striving to help them take away routine household work and be active in all areas of a new society. The Party guaranteed government protection for mothers and children. The 9th Party Congress stressed the necessity for the industrial and agricultural women workers to be involved in socialist construction. The agendas of the 11th, 12th, and 13th Party Congresses also included women movement issues. Meetings of delegates were the basic form of the women’s movement. They were organized at the enterprises, while for ‘housewives’, they were formed on the basis of local Soviets. In the Middle Asia and on the Caucasus, the Movement had to overcome great difficulties. Of special help was the Resolution of the CPSU (Bolsheviks) Organising Committee “On the Immediate Tasks of Work with Women-Workers, Women-Peasants and Employed Women in the East” (December 1924). Alongside with meetings of delegates many other organizational forms emerged: women’s clubs, co-working areas named “Red Corners”, etc. These cultural units allowed women to learn literacy, receive medical consultations, learn ABC of culture. Women’s clubs brought up the first activists who joined the party, enrolled on the RABFAC courses (the system of colleges for workers) and received recommendations and vouchers of employment at industrial enterprises. In 1926, the First All-Union meeting of the women’s clubs’ employees was held. The publicity of Soviet Women’s movement in the periodic print was widely reflected. Women’s magazines were established; Kommunistka (“Communist Woman”, 1920), Krestianka (“Peasant Woman”, 1922), Rabotnista (“Woman Worker”, 1923), Delegatka (“Woman Delegate”, 1923), Obshchestvennitsa (“Woman Activist”, 1936).
The Second All-Union Congress of women workers and peasants convened in October 1927, where an increase of women’s activity in all areas of socialist construction, the growth of their political consciousness. The number of women delegates of congresses of Soviets representing various areas of Russia and their subdivisions (Volosts, Uyezd and the Governorate) between 1922–1927, grew 3 to 8 times. In 1927, the first All-Union congress of women workers and women peasants, members of Soviets, was held. In 1931, an All-Union meeting on the women labour was held. The collectivisation of agriculture resulted in the growth of women’s movement in the countryside. Kolkhoz women workers delegates’ meetings, women’s consultations on production at the Village Soviets and Kolkhozes were held. In 1933, a movement of housewives activists for culture in production and at home, which aimed at involving large numbers of housekeeping women in productive and social activities. One of the methods of women’s movement in 1930’s was the mastering by women of trades that were previously considered masculine – P. N. Angelina & P. N. Kavardak, tractor drivers; Z. P. Troitskaya and others, train drivers. On the initiative of V. S. Khetagurova, the young Soviet women (‘Khetagurovists’) got actively involved in the process of exploration of the Far East. In 1936, the all-Union meetings of wives was held, representing wives of the Soviet administration personnel, of the heavy industry engineers and technical workers, and of the Red Army commanders.
In the years preceding the War, the Soviet women got actively involved in the international women’s democratic movement. In 1934, the Soviet women took part in the World women’s congress against the war and fascism. E. D. Stasova was one of the organisers of this congress. The congress established the International women’s committee.
During the Great Motherland War of 1941–1945, as men left for the front line, millions of Soviet women replaced them in various sectors of economy. Over 1 million kolkhoz women workers masters the skills of tractor drivers, harvester drivers, mechanics. Over 200 thousand women became brigadiers and the chairpersons in kolkhozes. Over 1 million women took part in the battles against the fascist invaders at the front and in the partisan detachments. On September 7, 1941, the 1st anti-fascist women’s rally was held in Moscow which adopted the Appeal to Women throughout the Globe, which called to intensify the struggle against fascism and create a united front of struggle against Hitlerism. In September 1941, the Anti-fascist Committee of Soviet Women was established (the Committee of Soviet Women since 1956, publishing the Soviet Woman magazine since 1945). On May 10th, 1942, the Second Women’s Anti-fascist rally was held (the All-Union rally of women who participated in the Motherland war), which adopted the “Appeal to the Women of the Globe”, and “From women of Moscow to women of London.”
Women were able to replace men on many ‘masculine’ duties. This was largely due to the fact that the women possessed the same levels of education, of intellect, due to the healthy lifestyle and the popularity of sports, they were physically advanced and and endurant, as per the pan-Soviet “ready to labour and defence” standard, the renowned GTO.
The hardships and the stress of the wartime had their own reflection on the family right, which was accordingly modified and aimed to strengthen the social attitude towards marriage, to support and provide benefits for families having multiple children, to increase the birth rates, which was crucial at the time.
On October 1, 1941, a new tax was introduced for single and married people who did not have children; it applied to men aged between 20 and 50, and to women aged between 20 and 45. The taxation rate was (a) 5 roubles a month for those earning up to 150 roubles, or (b) five percent of wage for those earning over 150 roubles monthly.
Pregnant women received extra food supplies. In conditions of war, orphaned children had to be taken care of. To this end, the new laws on the patronage, on the guardianship and adoption were passed in 1943.
This way, the entire social policy of the time was directed at stabilising the family. In 1944, there was passed a new Directorate of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR “On the enlargement of the state assistance to pregnant women, to mothers having multiple children, to single mothers, guarding maternity and childhood, on establishing the honorary ‘Hero Mother’ status, the ‘Maternal glory’ Order, and the ‘Maternity’ medal.”
This way, a special approach to the concept of family was achieved in the USSR. The family was recognised as a vital social practice. For this reason, the state and the party controlled the family itself, and the relationship within families. No doubt, maternity was given the highest priority as the main function of women and, as a result, was supported by the state as a pre-condition to the successful development and the evolution of society, and the prosperity of the country as a whole. This was all the basis for the evolution of women's positions in the family. When the woman was highly valued and her rights and freedoms were not infringed and were recognised equal to that of a man.
In 1970’s, many things were done to improve the conditions of women mothers. One-time benefits for each child were introduced. The paid maternity leave (before and after the birth) was increased from 56 to 70 days. A new practice was introduced, whereby a women can care for the child aged between 1.5 and 3 years, with this time being counted as work time in terms of pensions calculations, and the work place was secured.
The 1977 Constitution of the USSR declared, “The family enjoys the protection of the state. Marriage is based on the free consent of the woman and the man; the spouses are completely equal in their family relations.” The constitution also secured the question of parents’ duties in relation to their children. Article 66 of the Soviet Constitution stated that, “Citizens of the USSR are obliged to concern themselves with the upbringing of children, to train them for socially useful work…” Likewise, the children were obliged to care for their parents and provide support to them.
Women were equalled in their labour rights with men. However, there was a number of remarks in the laws that assumed special conditions for mothers (for instance, extra break time for mothers feeding from breast, the paid maternity leave, infants food benefit), as well as the remarks that allowed women to select the conditions of labour that would be most comfortable to them and eliminate the threats to women’s health. This all confirmed the state care of the feminine half of the population due to its natural weaknesses and due to its natural function of giving birth.