Old Photos: Women of the USSR

Sometime ago I was arguing on twitter about the number of women in the medical profession in the USSR. While I knew I was right (because I am always right), my opponent ridiculed my anecdotal references, like a number of female doctors I visited in my childhood, or a number of female students in my Dad’s medical school photo-album. I thought maybe a scientific-looking study would be more convincing.

Soviet Women in the Work Force and Professions
WILLIAM M. MANDEL Highgate Road Social Science Research Station, Inc.(Berkeley, California)

Women had been 10% of doctors and dentists in 1913. They rose to 77% in 1950 (Tsentral’noe Statisticheskoe Upravlenie, 1969a: 103), but then declined to 72% in 1969, when they were also down to 55% among medical students, pointing to an equalized sex ratio in medicine a generation hence.

Although remuneration in the Soviet professions shows nothing remotely like the spread in the United States between the teacher at the bottom of the heap, the engineer somewhat better off, and the doctor way out in front, there is a differential there as well. The Soviet government, always economically pinched, has raised wages and salaries in a[264] manner to attract people into fields which would not otherwise be entered by enough candidates to meet the need. Engineering is the best enumerated. Law is the lowest paid of the professions in the Soviet Union, and in it women are precisely the same proportion (one-third) as in engineering,the highest paid. Women had been 5% of the lawyers in 1926. At present there are 2,500 women judges. So women are majorities in the two professions in the middle of the payscale –  medicine and teaching   minorities in the two at the extremes-engineering and law. However, the 1971-1975 Five-Year Plan provides sharp salary increases for the two professions of medicine and teaching. Those seeking signs of discrimination no matter what are faced with the fact that, in numbers as distinct from percentages, there are more women engineers than physicians, and more physicians than librarians. The 775,000 women engineers in the USSR (1969) is almost equal to the total number of engineers in the United States (870,000), of whom only 1% are women.

On this International Women’s Day I am posting some photos of the Soviet women at work and at play. Wishing the best to all my female readers, even those who thought they can prove me wrong.

Worker and Peasant Statue. 1956 © Time Inc.Lisa Larsen.

Doctor making housecalls. © Time Inc. Bill Ray.
Women packing caviar into glass jars for export (fr. Volga Delta River sturgeon roe), at at Astrakhan Fish Complex processing plant; Astrakhan, Russia.1960. © Time Inc. Carl Mydans
Medical professional on the way to the patient. © Time Inc.Bill Ray
Women lying down on grass. 1960. © Time Inc. Jerry Cooke
Woman bundled up against the cold winter weather. 1959. © Time Inc.Carl Mydans
Russian women working as butchers in an abattoir while the men are off to war, at Mikoyan Meat Combine. 1941. © Time Inc.Margaret Bourke-White
Kirghiz women and children sitting in front of a Nomad’s tent called a Jurta.1958. © Time Inc.Howard Sochurek
Ukrainian women wheat harvesters on a collective farm nr. Kharkov. 1941. © Time Inc.Margaret Bourke-White
A woman doing labor work in a factory.1956. © Time Inc.Lisa Larsen
Women bricklayer putting up a building. 1947. © Time Inc.Thomas D. Mcavoy
A clerk working in a department store. 1956. © Time Inc.Lisa Larsen
A Russian woman with flowers to greet Yugoslav leader Tito during his visit to Russia.1956. © Time Inc.Lisa Larsen
A woman worker operating an automatic size-sorting machine.1961. © Time Inc.James Whitmore
Russian women’s brigade using crude rakes to gather up hay harvest on a collective farm outside the capitol.1941. © Time Inc.Margaret Bourke-White
Women cleaning the the streets.1947. © Time Inc.Thomas D. Mcavoy
Woman chasing toy truck.1960. © Time Inc. Jerry Cooke
An old woman in the store with a little girl.1956. © Time Inc.Lisa Larsen
Man and woman riding on motorcycle.1960. © Time Inc.Jerry Cooke
1958. © Time Inc.Howard Sochurek