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Narrative, Space and Gender in Russian Fiction: 1846-1903

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About Linda Edmondson. Linda Edmondson.


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Goldman shows that during the NEP era, as demobilized soldiers returned from the war front, they replaced women workers in various trades and industries. Female joblessness was further exacerbated by the fact that factories and state agencies radically decreased spending on childcare institutions and communal dining halls thus making it harder for women to obtain gainful employment. Women workers were concentrated in the lowest paid jobs requiring the least skills, and these were usually clustered in the textile and other light industry.

Labour exchanges routinely discriminated against them, and women were paid less than men for fulfilling the same labour quotas. Unions sought to protect the existing unequal gender status quo on the factory floor.

Genders in the Russian language

With the onset of the First Five-Year Plan, the Party continued to underestimate the value of female labour. Goldman explains that the Party policy of excluding women and non-proletarian workers from the work force slowed the rapid mobilization of labour required for the successful fulfillment of the First Five-Year Plan. During this period, soviets, trade unions and factory management proved incapable of mobilizing and utilizing women in a planned and effective manner.

But if in women held Although the collectivization of agriculture was intended to produce a steady supply of cheap food for the industrial worker, the actual process led to disastrous harvests and food shortages. As the state was unable to control the rising prices, it was forced to institute rationing and socialize the retail trade. Government efforts in these areas served to accentuate rather than ameliorate the situation, as cooperatives failed to adequately service consumer demands.

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Similarly, planned purges of wreckers in the food trade did little to lessen the scarcity of food supplies and consumer goods. As wages fell and prices rose, working class women from urban areas, as well as peasant recruits, streamed into heavy industry and found jobs in socialized dining, education, healthcare and administration in order to sustain their families.

According to Goldman 'Women due to their strategic placement within the working-class family, made an enormous contribution to capital accumulation and investment in industrialization. At the same time that the real wages fell, the Soviet economy, in the throes of the First Five-Year Plan, developed an enormous appetite for labour that could not be filled by the existing cadres of skilled male workers. As demands for new workers poured in from every branch of industry, NKT was unsuccessful in formulating a coherent policy to recruit women to industry or train them for new jobs.

Instead, the flow of women workers to various industries was unplanned, chaotic, and proceeded on an ad hoc basis.

Gender in Russian History and Culture by Linda Edmondson

As the NKT failed to provide clear guidelines, individual enterprises and trades bypassed the incompetent labour exchanges and hired the wives, widows, and teenage children of workers in a desperate attempt to reach their quotas. Workers brought female family members to work, and more frequently women themselves appeared at factory gates and construction sites.

By late , even though the Party and the NKT had begun to realize that women were a valuable labour resource that was politically more reliable than disgruntled recruits from the countryside, it failed to draft a comprehensive plan that would address the issues of female employment, training and education, and the socialization of household labour in an equitable manner.

Ignoring the suggestions of feminist activists from the KUTB Committee to Improve the Labour and Life of Working Women that were located in local soviets, the central planners divided the economy by gender and established -dominated sectors in the service industries where the pay was low.


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  7. In branches of heavy industry such as metallurgy, machine building, and construction, while women made rapid gains, they were equally segregated. This central policy of creating blocs of exclusively female workers had an adverse effect.

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    In areas, where skilled male workers were replaced by women these policies exacerbated existing deep-seated male prejudices against women workers. Despite Party injunctions to hire more women in heavy industry, factory management continued to hire women for the jobs requiring fewest skills, often in areas entirely unrelated to production, such as haulage, repair, and cleaning. Managers did not want to train women to take on skilled work, and promotions were far and few. On the factory floor, male co-workers harassed female employees, both physically and sexually, creating hostile and threatening work situations.

    And with the abolition of the Zhenotdel, there was no other institution that could take up the issue of inequality in the workplace.