Union for Women's Equality

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All-Russian Union for Women's Equality (Russian : Всероссийский союз равноправия женщин) was a liberal feminist organisation formed in the Russian Empire during the Russian Revolution of 1905. The Union demanded equal political, particularly voting, rights to women. The Union had main centers in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and a number of local chapters in various cities of the Empire. At its peak in 1906, the Union had 8,000 members and 78 branches in 65 cities. [1] The Union published monthly magazine Women's Union (Союз женщин) in 1907–09. [2] The Union disintegrated soon after the end of the revolution. Despite lack of tangible feminist achievements, the Union succeeded in raising awareness and political consciousness of many women in the Russian Empire. [3]

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

Russian Empire former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire was an empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

Moscow Capital of Russia

Moscow is the capital and most populous city of Russia, with 15.1 million residents within the city limits, 17 million within the urban area and approximately 25 million within the metropolitan area. Moscow is one of Russia's federal cities.


Formation and goals

The Union was formed by 30 liberal women a month after the Bloody Sunday (22 January 1905). The founding members included Zinaida Mirovich, Anna Kalmanovich, Liubov Gurevich, and Maria Chekhova. [3] They felt that liberal organizations, like the Union of Liberation, were indifferent about women's rights. [2] [4]

Bloody Sunday (1905) Massacre in Russia in January 1905

Bloody Sunday or Red Sunday is the name given to the events of Sunday, 22 January [O.S. 9 January] 1905 in St Petersburg, Russia, when unarmed demonstrators, led by Father Georgy Gapon, were fired upon by soldiers of the Imperial Guard as they marched towards the Winter Palace to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

Anna Kalmanovich was a Russian feminist and suffragette. Her public activities began with philanthropy in the 1890s and moved to radical feminism over the next several decades. It is not known if she survived the Bolshevik-led October Revolution of 1917.

Liubov Gurevich Russian writer

Liubov Yakovlevna Gurevich was a Russian editor, translator, author, and critic. She has been described as "Russia's most important woman literary journalist." From 1894 to 1917 she was the publisher and chief editor of the monthly journal The Northern Herald, a leading Russian symbolist publication based in Saint Petersburg. The journal acted as a rallying-point for the Symbolists Dmitry Merezhkovsky, Zinaida Gippius, Fyodor Sologub, Nikolai Minsky, and Akim Volynsky. In 1905 she joined the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT) as a literary advisor. She worked as an advisor and editor for the seminal Russian theatre practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski for the next 30 years and influenced his writing more than anyone else. Gurevich and Stanislavski had been writing to one another since the MAT's first tour to St Petersburg and became close friends.

On 10 April, the Union called the first meeting for women in Moscow. About 1,000 attendees laid the groundwork for the first congress of the Union on 7–10 May. [4] The congress, chaired by Anna Miliukova (wife of Pavel Milyukov), was attended by some 300 official delegates, including 70 delegates sent from 26 local chapters, [4] who adopted a far-reaching program that underscored that liberation of women was inseparable from liberation of the society as a whole. [3] The Union did not focus solely on women's issues and joined the wider liberal movement, consciously using the term "women's liberation" and not "feminist". [5] The program demanded a constituent assembly elected by equal, direct, secret, and universal voting (without regard to sex, nationality or religion), national autonomy for ethnic minorities, and abolition of the death penalty in addition to more women-oriented demands of equality before law, equal rights in any land reform, law protection and welfare guarantees for women workers, and co-education at every level. [3] [4] The issue of national autonomy was divisive: the Russian women were surprised by the importance of the autonomy for Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian, Jewish, and Belarusian women. [6] The next congress was held on 8–12 October 1905. [6] The third congress was held on 21–24 May 1906. [5]

Pavel Milyukov Russian politician and historian

Pavel Nikolayevich Milyukov was a Russian historian and liberal politician. Milyukov was the founder, leader, and the most prominent member of the Constitutional Democratic party. In the Russian Provisional Government, he served as Foreign Minister, working to prevent Russia's exit from the First World War.

A constituent assembly or constitutional assembly is a body or assembly of popularly elected representatives which is assembled for the purpose of drafting or adopting a constitution or similar document. The constituent assembly is entirely elected by popular vote ; that is, all constituent assemblies are constitutional conventions, but a constitutional convention is not necessarily a constituent assembly. As the fundamental document constituting a state, a constitution cannot normally be modified or amended by the state's normal legislative procedures; instead a constitutional convention or a constituent assembly, the rules for which are normally laid down in the constitution, must be set up. A constituent assembly is usually set up for its specific purpose, which it carries out in a relatively short time, after which the assembly is dissolved. A constituent assembly is a form of representative democracy.


The Union petitioned City Dumas and zemstva to grant women voting rights. [4] In May 1905, along with thirteen other unions, the Union became a founding member of the Union of Unions, an umbrella organization for trade and professional unions. [2] It also joined the International Woman Suffrage Alliance and sent delegates to its congresses in Copenhagen (August 1906) and Amsterdam (June 1908). [7] In various cities women organized meetings, wrote petitions, collected signatures, and presented them to various political institutions, including the State Duma. [4] They lobbied various organizations to add women's suffrage to their agenda, [2] but reception among male organizations was lukewarm as many supported women's rights in principle, but argued that in practice it was an inopportune moment to raise the issue. [4] At the request of some sympathetic Duma delegates, the Union prepared specific recommendation on amending the legal code to incorporate women's rights, but the Duma was dissolved before further action could be taken. [2]

City Duma

City Duma is the parliament/legislative branch of power of in the Russian Empire and contemporary Russian cities, and before the entry into force of the new administrative-territorial division in 2009, in all the cities of Latvia.

The Union of Unions was a wide alliance of various professional unions formed in 1905, active during the revolutionary last years of the Russian Empire. One of those active in the formation of the Union of Unions was Pavel Milyukov, who later became the Foreign Minister in 1917.

State Duma (Russian Empire) former legislative assembly in the late Russian Empire

The State Duma or Imperial Duma was the Lower House, part of the legislative assembly in the late Russian Empire, which held its meetings in the Taurida Palace in St. Petersburg. It convened four times between 27 April 1906 and the collapse of the Empire in February 1917. The First and the Second Dumas were more democratic and represented a greater number of national types than their successors. The Third Duma was dominated by gentry, landowners and businessmen. The Fourth Duma held five sessions; it existed until 2 March 1917, and was formally dissolved on 6 October 1917.

During the height of the revolution, including the Moscow Uprising of 1905, members of the Union actively supported the revolutionaries by fundraising, organizing first aid stations and canteens, [1] marching in demonstrations and maintaining the barricades. [2] Women also worked with other organizations, such as Red Cross, Union of Unions, and Unemployment Commission. The Union's budget for 1905–06 was 3,800 rubles, of which 1,000 rubles designated to support other organizations and strikers. [1] In Fall 1906, the Saint Petersburg branch organized an agitation lecture tour; most popular lectures attracted audiences of up to 800. In 1907, the Union distributed 10,000 pamphlets and books in the countryside. Since not all women were literate, joint readings were organized. [1]


While the Union's program reflected attempts to include issues relevant to both working class (welfare guarantees) and peasant women (equality in land reform), it had difficulty in attracting their participation and retaining their loyalty. [3] The class solidarity was more important than gender unity. Internal disagreements and introduction of reactionary repressions by the Tsarist authorities led to quick dwindling of the Union. The Union was never officially registered as an organization. [2] The journal Women's Union was discontinued in December 1909. [2] It its mission, the Union was succeeded by the League for Women’s Equality.

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