A Soviet woman on her work in the new society (1920)

In 1920 a Soviet woman, Maria Fedotovna Filipenko, lets of her experiences as a factory worker in the revolution and what she is contributing to the new society:

“During the 1917 Revolution, I did not understand anything and when we came out against tsarism, we met Cossacks. I became frightened but they lowered their rifles and joined us. But I was still afraid. I arrived at the courtyard and there were soldiers there. I was crying from fright. They asked – was it possible that I was sorry for the tsar? What was I supposed to say? I had heard that he was the terrestrial king and I didn’t know anything more about it. I wasn’t sorry for him, but afraid. Afraid what would happen next, how the children would live…

I still lived my own life and talked my husband out of public life. I thought that he would carouse at the meetings. And I wouldn’t let him join the party. And I argued to the teeth with the workers. I was that ignorant. And the people who lived around us weren’t good. The tenants, especially the women, called me ‘factory worker’ and ‘desperado’ and I argued with them. Because I had found a family at the factory. I’m a shpitomka [orphan]. I don’t have any relatives and I have been alone all my life. I [had been] a domestic servant and the lady of the house poked me in the teeth with a plate – but when I went to the factory the workers treated me kindly and taught me how to work on machines…

I became conscious. And then, because of that, the women workers chose me as a delegate. I went to the Soviet for the first time, but I was afraid to go in. I just stood near the door and then went home. But I was ashamed to tell them at the factory. “They wouldn’t let me in,” I said. Then our organiser raised a stink. He got everybody excited, “They wouldn’t let a woman delegate into the Soviet. ” Then I admitted that I hadn’t told the truth, that I’d just been afraid to go alone. Then the organiser took me himself.

First there was a speech by Comrade Loginov about the dangers of religion. And I was so excited, came home, took down all the icons, wanted to throw them away. My husband and I quarrelled – he’s religious, but I later reformed him. When I was ignorant I hung like a weight on his legs, preventing him from joining the Party. But when I understood myself I stopped trying to restrain him. Quite the opposite, I pushed him toward public life. That’s how important it is for a man [for] his wife to be conscientious.

So I began to work as a delegate. It’s been two years and I’ve joined the party. After me, my husband was enrolled in the party, and we work together as comrades. Now as a delegate, I help in the Zhenotdel to meet our needs. In the Section of the Department of Health Care of the Soviet, a dispensary (which distributes to the sick) has been opened and a new cafeteria, and we are opening a night sanatorium there.

A sick worker can come straight from the factory and rest in pleasant surroundings. He’ll receive good food and any treatment that he requires. In other words, work and be treated. Before they sent him off to a sanatorium and he got better, and then he would come back and the recovery was undone. With us the worker can undergo further treatment in the night sanatorium until he is completely well. At the dispensary we give out to sick workers whatever they need; medicine to some, linen and shoes to others, even beds, if they sleep on the floor. We’re fighting tuberculosis this way.

I am also connected, through my work as a delegate, with various hospitals, maternity homes, children’s homes. I track down where there is disorder, I help to eliminate them. My life is no longer without purpose and I call on you comrade female workers and peasants to join in public work.”