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33 ARMAND, Inessa-Elizaveta Fiodorovna (1874–1920) Activist of the Russian and international workers’ and feminist movements. Pseudonym : Elena Blonina. Inessa Armand was born Inessa Steffen in Paris on 26 April 1874, the illegitimate child of Theodore Steffen, a British opera singer, and Nathalie Vil’d, a French actress. She grew up speaking French and English and later learned Russian, German and Polish. After her father died in 1889, she moved to Russia to stay with relatives. In 1893, she married Alexander Evgen’evich Armand (died 1943), whose family were wealthy manufacturers of French origin. By 1903, Inessa Armand had given birth to four children (Alexander, Varvara, Inna and Vladimir). In 1902, she left her husband ; in 1903, she married his younger brother Vladimir, who shared her radical political views and bore him her last child, Andrei. In the summer of 1903, Vladimir and Inessa Armand went to Moscow to become professional revolutionaries. Under the influence of Marxism, Inessa regarded the women’s movement as merely the ‘female equivalent’ of the male workers’ struggle for liberation. She believed the ‘class criterion’ most always be taken into account when defining a revolutionary attitude to the struggle for women’s rights, since participants in that struggle from different social strata would have different social concerns. Under the threat of arrest, the Armand family emigrated for Paris. After her husband ’s death from tuberculosis, Inessa Armand remained politically active, in spite of the everyday hardships she faced bringing up five children alone. In 1904, Armand joined the Parti Socialiste Français (French Socialist Party). In the same year, she returned to Russia (Moscow) and became a member of the Rossiiskaia SocialDemokraticheskaia Rabochaia Partiia (Russian Social Democratic Labor Party). It was also in 1904 that the Moskovskoe Obshchestvo Uluchsheniia Uchasti Zhenshchin (Moscow Society for the Improvement of the Situation of Women), established in 1899, elected Armand Chair of its Commission on Education. With the outbreak of the 1905–1907 Russian Revolution, Armand began organizing Sunday schools for craftswomen, female workers, maids and housewives. The aim was to turn these units into centers for revolutionary propaganda, where women might 34 be encouraged to discard their traditional views on the family. On 7 February 1905, Armand was arrested in St Petersburg but released three months later. She immediately resumed revolutionary agitation among women workers and also made efforts to establish contacts between Russian and foreign socialist feminists, as part of efforts to unify the international women’s labor movement. The failed Revolution of 1905–1907 was followed by a wave of political reaction and Armand’s activities were noted by the authorities. In the fall of 1907, Armand managed to emigrate, again to France where she joined the most vigorous activists of the Presidium of the emigrant Bolshevik organization: “The Group for Assistance to the Party.” In 1908, she traveled illegally to St Petersburg in order to participate in the First All-Russian Women’s Congress but did not play any active role in organizing the Congress or its sessions. (Her own views did not correspond with those of the liberal wing of the Russian women’s movement, which had initiated the Congress.) At the end of December 1909, in Paris, Armand met the leader of the Russian Social Democratic Party, Vladimir Ul’ianov (Lenin) (1870–1924). The beginning of their friendship dates from the spring of 1911, when the socialists succeeded in opening a party school in Longumeaux (near Paris) where Armand worked as a lecturer. Lenin found himself among one of the many unable to resist the beauty and charm of this remarkable feminist. In the spring of 1912, socialist emigrants sent Armand to Russia to organize underground party activities. By this point Armand, along with other Russian and foreign colleagues, had become actively involved in setting up a foreign version (i.e. to be published abroad) of the new women’s magazine Rabotnitsa (Female worker)—initially intended for a Russian proletarian female readership. The first issue of this magazine came out on 8 March 1914 (International Women’s Day). Armand grew increasingly fascinated by socialist feminism. In January 1915, she composed a brief draft of an article on feminism and sent a draft version of a pamphlet on women’s rights to Lenin. He sharply criticized Armand’s program for women’s liberation and recommended that she remove her demand for free love, since it seemed a bourgeois demand to him—an appeal to “freedom of adultery” and a threat to the emergent...


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