One group that is often overlooked during wartime is women. Traditional values in Soviet culture told women to stay at home to tend to the children, cook dinner, clean up, and take care of other household issues. However, during the 1940s while men were away at war, women played a very different role in Soviet life. Women became “married to the state,” sacrificing their personal lives in order to serve the state by going to work in factories and the industrial sector. The “traditional roles” women held in films, songs, and poems didn’t correlate to the actual roles women took on during the war.
“By the end of the summer of 1941, women comprised 70 per cent of the industrial labour force in Moscow” (Freeze, 386)
Women became the breadwinners of the family as their husbands were fighting the Germans and work was still needing to be done so the economy wouldn’t suffer as well. The agricultural sector was no different. Agriculture was “feminized” in other words, mainly run by women rather than the men who used to labor in the fields. The Red Army took over machines and horses in such grand number that women attempted to pull ploughs themselves (Freeze, 386). See here.
I find this interesting because this looks a lot like women’s roles in America during the early 1940s. Millions of American women went to work in jobs that were previously only held by men during World War II to “do her part” to help during the War.
Does she look familiar? Rosie the Riveter was the iconic picture of a working woman. As Soviet women left the home and took on industrial and agricultural jobs, women in America were doing the same, all to serve their respective states and help in any way they could. “In 1945, Soviet women workers outnumbered men workers.” (Red Papers) And that was just one sector. Women took over medical, agricultural, transportation, and construction fields and comprised a large part of each area. Likewise, “by 1945, nearly one out of every four married women worked outside of the home” (History).
After reading Love and Romance in War from Seventeen Moments, the only part that really stuck out to me was that Soviet women were portrayed as homemakers, but were actually hardworking women who deserved a little more credit than (I’m sure) they get!
Freeze, Gregory. “Russia A History” 3rd Edition.
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