The first opportunity to exercise their newly-won right was during elections for the Constituent Assembly in November 1917.
In many areas, such as Yaroslavl, the female turnout exceeded that of men.
While wealthier women had access to limited education, especially after women’s higher education courses were introduced in the late 1870s, peasant women (who constituted the majority of the Empire’s female population in the 19th century) were mostly illiterate.
Despite class differences, society was staunchly patriarchal and women of all backgrounds were not allowed to vote or hold public office until 1917.
Led by Poliksena Shishkina-Iavein, President of the League for Women’s Equal Rights and Russia’s first female gynecologist, and the revolutionary Vera Figner, the march was attended by up to 40,000 women.
In July 1917, women over 20 were given the right to vote and hold public office.They argued that these ‘bourgeois’ women could not understand the needs of workers and peasant women and that the women’s movement threatened working-class solidarity.On the newly-established Women’s Day in 1914, a group of Bolshevik women, including Konkordiia Samoilova, Nadezhda Krupskaia and Inessa Armand, published the first Russian socialist women’s journal, After the February Revolution, the fight for women’s suffrage increased, in line with the general call for the implementation of democratic reforms.Tsarist authorities swiftly crushed the movement and hundreds of male and female activists were arrested.New non-violent and violent groups soon emerged, including the revolutionary terror organisation People’s Will (), which was responsible for the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881.Towards the end of the 19th century, peasant women began to migrate to the cities in large numbers to work in factories or domestic service.Although their working hours and conditions were long and difficult, this was the first time that many women experienced independence from the patriarchal village traditions and structures.Yet, as studies, such as Jane Mc Dermid and Anna Hillyar’s book have shown, women activists and workers played a crucial role throughout 1917.In the months leading up to the October Revolution, for example, working class women and Bolshevik activists staged a number of strikes and demonstrations to protest the continuation of the war and poor working conditions.Historians generally agree that the February Revolution began in Petrograd on International Women’s Day, 23 February (Old Style: 8 March) 1917, when thousands of women from different backgrounds took to the streets demanding bread and increased rations for soldiers’ families.There is, however, disagreement as to whether the women-led demonstrations were spontaneous, or whether they were a result of conscious political action.