Articles and images published in Soviet newspapers on March 8, International Communist Woman’s Day, provide the most obvious examples of how women were used as symbols in a propaganda campaign. These texts and images were clearly intended to convey a certain message about the changing role of women in the Soviet system. In particular, March 8 publications celebrated the achievements of Soviet women in part by comparing their lives to the difficulties of Russian women “in the past,” prior to the revolution, and to contemporary women “outside the Soviet borders,” which included the capitalist countries of Western Europe and the United States and the Asian and African colonial peoples ruled by European governments. This article suggests key themes that dominated Soviet discourse on women in the 1930s: the new roles for women in employment, government, and education, the ongoing effort to overcome the legacies of the past, the unity of women behind the Soviet government and Communist Party, and the assertions that Soviet women were the most equal and most emancipated women in the world.

Source: Pravda, "On the Path to a Great Emancipation," March 8, 1929.


Today is international communist women’s day, the international day for working women. Today is a holiday in honor of one-half of the international proletarian army and in honor of the women workers of the socialist Soviet Union. In our country, governed by the power of the proletariat, the day of the woman worker has been consciously designated as a political and cultural “great day.” And outside the Soviet borders, in places where capitalist bondage has not been overthrown, we are certain that conscientious, advanced women workers will today demonstrate their dedication to the cause of the international revolution and their indestructible solidarity with the working women and men of the Soviet Union.

Our woman worker in the past . . . during the barbaric, savage, and blood stained tsarist regime. The heavy and hopeless fate of the woman worker—as mother, wife, and girl. All of the striving of the woman worker toward the light, toward freedom, and to a human existence were snuffed out by the criminal arm of the autocracy. The exploitation and debasement were tripled: in politics, in factory labor, and in daily life.

Working women in capitalist countries. Capitalist “democracy” has not and cannot give freedom to working and laboring women. Working women in all bourgeois countries are economically and politically enslaved. Middle class conventionality has a tenacious vice-grip on daily life. Advanced women workers and revolutionary women proletarians are persecuted. The most brutal blows of capitalist “rationalization,” unemployment, and hunger in the midst of plenty descend upon the female half of the proletariat. Fascism, Catholicism, and reformism with increasingly thoroughness exploit the historical backwardness of women workers in order to split apart the proletarian ranks and strengthen the position of imperialism. The temples of “national government”—what a thing to talk about!—are protected by stone walls which prevent the participation of working women.

Only we in the Soviet Union have at hand all of the preconditions and foundations for the complete emancipation of working women. These preconditions were created and acquired in a severe struggle with enemies, at a time when world history passed over the heights of the great October summit. Only our women have been emancipated in practice, acting as conscious builders of a new society and a new governing commune, and speaking out as active citizens with fully equal rights in the socialist family.

For more than eleven years, our woman worker has made her way along the path set by the proletarian dictatorship. Together with all the proletariat she fought for power in October. Together with her working brothers she passed through the crucible of sacrifice and suffering during the civil war. She stands in the most advanced ranks of our working collective in the present-day glorious and productive period of socialist construction. In the factory workshop and at the controls of the state ships, in the cooperatives and at the shooting range, in the nursery school and at the thundering machinery, everywhere the tractors of our increasingly strong state farms and collective farms are plowing the virgin soil of our Soviet land, in the workers’ faculties and in courses for the red sisterhood where the proletariat struggles relentlessly to master science, and everywhere that life is in full swing and the anthills of labor are humming—in none of these places have the working women of the Soviet Union been forced into last place. Everywhere the vigorous stream of activism of our women workers is flowing. With ever more firm and certain steps they are advancing on the path to complete emancipation under the tested leadership of our Party.

Needless to say, without the conscious and active participation of the working woman we will not fulfill the tasks defined by Lenin and by the entire development of the October revolution. We will not achieve the rapid tempo of socialist industrialization if the woman worker turns out to be passive. We will not achieve the complete cultural revolution if the woman worker remains “on the side,” or is somehow pushed off toward “the second rate plan.”

For the successful completion of all these tasks we must mobilize the entire women’s active. Recruitment of the best women into the Party and the courageous and steadfast advancement into the soviets, management and cooperative duties, and the governing apparatus—these measures will ensure the actual emancipation of women who remain backward in comparison with our general levels of economic and cultural development.

The maximum activism of all women proletarians and conscientious working peasant women is one of the indispensable guarantees of our further successes and our victorious socialist growth. The greatest possible and most inexhaustible activism, the unceasingly creative work of the woman proletarian on all large and “small” fronts of our life, their rigid and total solidarity with the Party—these are the obligatory conditions for our creativity.

The struggle for a new cultured life—is this possible without the creative initiative of the woman worker? The struggle with alcoholism and disgusting drunken debauchery and the struggle to expel the green hydra from the Soviet home—are these conceivable without the will and determination, without the intensive and constant force of the working woman? Could the struggle with such social ulcers as prostitution proceed successfully without arousing and involving hundreds of thousands of working women?

And the struggle to overcome difficulties, the struggle with our many-faceted class enemies, the struggle with anti-Semitism, with the priesthood, and with religious stupefication—are these goals attainable if the campaign against these barbarisms does not include the millions of working women and if they are not advanced into the leading positions?

All of these tasks need to be accomplished, and they will be accomplished. The path to the complete emancipation of working women is clear. No force has concealed it. And not only today, on the red holiday of March 8, should we take note of and strongly emphasize the great challenges facing the women’s proletarian movement. These should be remembered constantly, they should become part of our everyday “routine” of socialism. For surely we are talking about one of the greatest tasks that has been set by history: the complete liberation and emancipation of working women from any kind of exploitation, from material need, from lack of culture, and from barbarism.