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95 CHEKHOVA, Mariia Aleksandrovna Argamakova (1866–1934) Russian feminist activist. Founder (1905) of the Soiuz Ravnopraviia Zhenshchin (Women’s Equal Rights Union) and editor (1907–1909) of the journal Soiuz Zhenshchin (Union of Women), the official organ of the Soiuz Ravnopraviia Zhenshchin. President (1909–1917) of the Moscow branch of the Liga Ravnopraviia Zhenshchin (League for Women’s Equal Rights). Mariia Chekhova was born Mariia Argamakova on 18 January 1866, into a gentry family in St Petersburg. Both her maternal and paternal grandfathers were teachers, as was her father, Aleksandr Pavlovich Argamakov, who taught at St Petersburg’s First Military Gimnazium (high school). Mariia had a younger sister Sophia (married name Kemnits), born in 1869. Her mother, Ekaterina Ivanovna Mertsalova, died in 1872. In 1877, Mariia’s father remarried. Mariia had a difficult relationship with her stepmother (Serafima Alekseevna Popova) and when Aleksandr Pavlovich took a job in Irkutsk in 1880, Mariia happily moved in with her maternal grandmother, remaining there for the next ten years. She attended gimnaziia and later teachers’ courses, graduating in 1886. She majored in mathematics, established her own school in St Petersburg (which existed from 1889 to 1916) and in 1890 married fellow educator Nikolai Chekhov. Theirs was a companionate marriage; relations based on reciprocity and mutuality were idealized by the Russian intelligentsia of the time and the couple, heavily influenced by the ideas of Leo Tolstoi, sought to live out their ideals in the Russian countryside . From 1890 to 1904, the Chekhovs resided in several provincial towns and cities, where they established day and Sunday schools and ministered to victims of the 1891 famine. Mariia gave birth to seven children in succession: Ekaterina (b.1891), Liudmila (b.1892), Anna (b.1894), Aleksandr (1895–1916), Vladimir (1896–1900), Lev (1897–1899) and Sophia (b.1901). Moving to Moscow in 1904, the Chekhovs became active participants in the Liberation movement and the Teachers Union. The outbreak of the 1905 Revolution made demands for political rights possible, but male liberals sought the vote solely for 96 men and socialists only paid lip service to women’s suffrage. In response, Chekhova, along with about thirty other women of the small Russian educated class, founded the Soiuz Ravnopraviia Zhenshchin (Women’s Equal Rights Union) in Moscow in February 1905. Chekhova was the Secretary of the Soiuz and a member of its Central Bureau . Her husband was the only man in the Soiuz leadership. Chekhova’s ties with the provinces aided the organization in its outreach to women outside Moscow and St Petersburg; by 1906, the Soiuz boasted a membership of eight to ten thousand and chapters throughout the Russian Empire. In addition to her involvement with the Soiuz Ravnopraviia Zhenshchin, Chekhova taught Russian language and literature courses to workers of both sexes and helped organize the first Moscow children’s club (a philanthropic and educational organization modeled on the US women’s clubs). From 1906 to 1910, the Chekhov family lived in St Petersburg, where Mariia kept up her activism in the Soiuz and joined the Russkoe Zhenskoe Vzaimno-Blagotvoritel’noe Obshchestvo (Russian Women’s Mutual Philanthropic Society). She also organized petition campaigns for women’s suffrage to the Second Duma (Russian Parliament). As editor (1907–1909) of the journal Soiuz Zhenshchin (Union of Women), she took a socialist feminist line, arguing in the journal ’s third issue that the full liberation of women was possible “only when all exploitation of one person by another is ended; that is, under socialism” (Chekhova October 1907, 4). She was especially critical of the radical feminism of Mariia Pokrovskaia. Pokrovskaia, who in her journal Zhenskii Vestnik (Woman’s herald) had emphasized the primacy of sexual oppression—especially in connection with prostitution—was accused by Chekhova of having “unfounded dreams and [using] idealistic airy sentences ” (Chekhova December 1907, 18). Representing the Soiuz, Chekhova served on the organizing committee for the first All-Russian Women’s Congress in 1908. When the Soiuz disbanded and its journal ceased publication in December 1909, Chekhova found a new venue for her feminist activity as President of the Moscow branch of the Liga Ravnopraviia Zhenshchin (League for Women’s Equal Rights). Despite having moved to Moscow, she continued to be active in St Petersburg as well. She attended congresses on prostitution and education such as the Pervyi Vserossiiskii S’ezd po Bor’be s Torgom Zhenshchinami (First All-Russian Congress on the Struggle against the Trade in Women; held on 21– 25 April 1910) and the League-organized...


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