restricted access GUREVICH, Liubov’ Iakovlevna (1866–1940)
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169 GUREVICH, Liubov’ Iakovlevna (1866–1940) Russian literary critic, writer and feminist activist; founding member (1905) of the Soiuz Ravnopraviia Zhenshchin (Women ’s Equal Rights Union); pamphleteer and publicist on women’s rights from 1905 to 1908 and in 1917. Liubov’ Gurevich was born in St Petersburg on 20 October 1866. She grew up in a progressive urban intellectual household with a mixed social background. Her mother, Liubov’ Ivanovna Il’ina, was of the gentry class. The sister of the writer Ekaterina Tsekina-Zhukovskaia, she encouraged her daughter to take an interest in literature. Her father, Iakov Gurevich (1843–1906), was of Jewish parentage but had converted to Russian Orthodoxy. A lecturer in history at St Petersburg University , as well as at the Bestuzhev Higher Women’s Courses, he also edited the liberal Russian pedagogical journal Russkaia Shkola (Russian school). In a short autobiography written in 1911, Gurevich claimed that from an early age she was aware of the inequality of the sexes: “I cursed myself for being a woman, as a result of which I couldn’t go wherever I wanted, couldn’t run into the most diverse kinds of people, experience with the very essence of my being all that was most vital and important in life” (Fidler 1911, 190; R.R., trans). Gurevich began to question the existence of barriers to women’s achievement, seeking recognition as an equal to men in the world of literature and culture. After having commenced a period of study at the Bestuzhev Higher Women’s Courses, she read an excerpt from the diary of Mariia Bashkirtseva, a Russian émigré artist who had died young in Paris. Gurevich described burning with passionate love for the dying Bashkirtseva, “feeling strikingly close to her in spirit” (Fidler 1911, 188; R. R. trans). Later, when Gurevich was sent abroad to receive treatment for a serious illness, she traveled to Paris (1886), met Bashkirtseva’s mother, visited the late artist’s studio and wrote about her experience in her first published article for a populist ‘thick journal,’ Russkoe Bogatsvo (Russian wealth). (‘Thick journals’ were large volumes —as the name implies—of material on contemporary literary, political and social debates, deliberately bulky so as to foil the censors.) Upon returning from Paris, the twenty-year-old Gurevich began frequenting the sa- 170 lon of Alexandra Davydova, where the talk of old populists such as Nikolai Mikhailovskii felt “foreign” to her but where she made contacts with such young and upcoming writers as Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, Nikolai Minskii and Akim Volynskii. Aided by loans from family members, Gurevich purchased, and became the publisher of the journal Severnyi Vestnik (Northern herald) in 1891. Volynskii was the editor but Gurevich, just 25 and a recent graduate of the Bestuzhev Courses, was the driving force behind the journal. As its publisher, she managed its affairs until 1899 (when it ceased publication because of financial problems and the personal hostility of the head censor). Under Gurevich and Volynskii’s stewardship, Severnyi Vestnik made its mark publishing modernist writers such as Merezhkovskii, Zinaida Gippius, Mirra Lokhvitskaia and Fedor Sologub, as well as famous women such as Annie Besant, Sophia Kovalevskaia, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Zinaida Vengerova and Ol’ga Shapir. The journal included many articles on women’s status in society and works by populist economists such as Alexandra Efimenko. It also published the work of established writers such as Chekhov and Tolstoi (the wife of Tolstoi accused the writer of having an affair with Gurevich). When Severnyi Vestnik ceased publication, Gurevich was left with a mass of debts; she later described this as the “most difficult period of my life” (Fidler 1911, 194; R. R, trans). She does not mention in any of her autobiographical pieces that she gave birth at this time to a daughter (Elena Nikolaevna). Gurevich did not marry the father, probably the poet Nikolai Molostov. In choosing to be a single mother, she showed great courage in flouting prevailing social norms and living out her feminist ideals. While Gurevich’s literary achievements have been highlighted in most surveys of her life, her involvement in feminist organizations has been minimized or ignored. Yet her connection to women’s organizations dates to her early membership in the Russkoe Zhenskoe Vzaimno-Blagotvoritel’noe Obshchestvo (Russian Women’s Mutual Philanthropic Society). Founded in 1895, the society—limited under strict tsarist laws to charitable and educational pursuits—attempted to model itself on US women’s clubs. Gurevich’s public feminist activity blossomed with the Revolution...