Russian Feminists through the Archives

A newly digitized collection offers a window into the lives of women who participated in the struggle for equal rights in the Russian Empire.

The Davis Center Collection for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Fung Library has digitized the Rochelle Ruthchild Research Materials on the Women's Rights Movement in Russia Collection.

Gathered on microfilm from twenty-three archives over several decades of research by Davis Center Associate Rochelle Ruthchild, this collection brings together an array of primary source print materials concerning women’s lives and political engagement in the late Russian Empire and early Soviet Union. All together, it comprises over 33,000 pages of material, much of which was previously only accessible in person at Russian state libraries and archives. 

“I'm hoping that the collection will help make more human, and more visible, the women who took part in the feminist movement,” said Rochelle Ruthchild. “And their similarities and differences, their wide range of opinions.”

The collection is now available in its entirety online. Materials are viewable as page-turned objects with downloadable individual pages. Every work, including multivolume periodicals, is full-text searchable.

Users can browse the digitized materials via the online finding aid or by searching HOLLIS for “Rochelle Ruthchild research materials.”

I'm hoping that the collection will help make more human, and more visible, the women who took part in the feminist movement—their similarities and differences, their wide range of opinions.

Rochelle Ruthchild

Rochelle Ruthchild

Davis Center Associate

The collection includes near-complete runs of four early-20th-century women’s periodicals covering a wide range of issues, such as the fight for suffrage, developments in child psychology, hygienic practices for women and their households, women’s achievements in the arts and sciences, and fashion trends and cosmetic innovations. The collection also includes selected annual reports from eight Russian women’s political, charitable, and social organizations; proceedings from three All-Russian Congresses on issues relating to women’s rights and welfare; and twenty-nine monographs ranging in size from short polemical pamphlets to large essay collections. 

Major figures of the women’s movement in Russia—such as Alexandra Kollontai, Mariia Pokrovskaia, Praskovia Arian, and Anna Kalmanovich—feature prominently in the collection, in their own words and in dialogue with other women activists. There are also a number of materials pertaining to such prominent women’s organizations as the League for Women’s Equal Rights, Women’s Mutual Aid Society, and the first All-Russian Women’s Congress of 1908

This latest acquisition and digitization expands the Davis Center library’s special collection holdings documenting the experiences of women in Russia before and during the Bolshevik Revolution. It enters into a particularly close dialogue with the Poliksena Shishkina-Iavein Digital Photograph Collection, the personal photographic archive of the president of the League for Women’s Equal Rights from 1910 to 1917. This collection, acquired in 2011 also with Ruthchild’s help, offers a visual record of the political and philanthropic activities of the League, which was at the forefront of the Russian women’s rights movement in the early twentieth century. 

The digitization was made possible by a grant from the National Research Council and the work of staff at the Davis Center Collection and Widener Library Imaging Services.

Librarian for the Davis Center Collection

Svetlana Rukhelman is the Librarian for the Davis Center Collection.