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Testimony to the
Overman Committee

February 21, 1919 — Subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary (Overman Committee), Washington DC

 

Miss Bryant. I want to go back, since it has taken up so much time, to this nationalization of women. I am very much interested in this. In the first place, they have equal suffrage in Russia, and I can not imagine how anybody would suppose that women would vote for their own nationalization.

In the second place, women have always been very important in Russia. I consider that Russian women are even more belligerent than Russian men. I think that Russian men would not dare to suggest such a thing to Russian women, and I know the place and the importance of women under the soviet. Madame [Alexandra] Kollontay, who is head of the department of welfare, has set up all sorts of splendid reforms for women in Russia. She has established, for one thing, what she calls palaces of motherhood. Women, two months before confinement, are paid their full salaries and are allowed to rest. They do not have to go to work for two months afterwards and their doctors and nurses are paid for by the State. That is one of the reforms.

Senator [Lee Slater] Overman. Right here let me ask you a question.

Miss Bryant. Yes.

Senator Overman. It was stated here by one witness that they believed in taking the children away from the mothers.

Miss Bryant. That is not true, and I wanted particularly to go into that. In the first place, Madame Kollontay’s whole idea is to do away with the dismal charitable institutions like orphan asylums. Her idea was to put the children of peasants back into peasant homes, where they would have individual care and be made a part of the family, and she was working on that and had gotten along a good ways on that when I was there. She had gone a long ways toward working that out. They do not have child labor in Russia. Women are accepted on an equal basis with men, getting equal pay for equal work. They have an equal place in the labor unions. They are not excluded from any kind of work. I never have been in a country where women were as free as they are in Russia and where they are treated not as females but as human beings. When a woman gets up at a public meeting and makes a speech nobody thinks about her being a lady or about what kind of a hat she happens to wear. They just think of what she says. It is a very healthy country for a suffragist to go into. They asked me when I was in Russia about how many women we had in Congress and in the Senate. I would like to tell you this, if I may be permitted.

Senator [Thomas] Sterling. Yes.

Miss Bryant. I told them about Jeannette Rankin, that we had one in Congress, and that we had made quite a fuss over her, and we did not know whether we would ever have another one. They were quite surprised. They could not understand, when we had had democracy here so long, that our women, most of them, were not even enfranchised. So that you see they criticize us in many ways just as we criticize them. But they never went to the extent that they said that everybody in the United States was a Mormon because there is Mormonism in the United States. They never went to the point where they said all Congressmen and Senators are Holy Rollers because we have Holy Rollers here. They read our marriage laws and understood them, although they consider them ridiculous. But we in [the] United States have taken a little bit of a decree printed by an anarchist club and made it the expression of all Russia; and that is what I want to speak of, because I can not believe that any man on this committee can be so gullible that he can believe that the women of Russia are nationalized.

 

 

Source: Bolshevik Propaganda: Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Sixty-Fifth Congress, Third Session (Washington DC: Government Printing Office) 1919, pp. 540-541.