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503 SHAPIR, Ol’ga Andreevna (born Kislaikova) (1850–1916) Well-known nineteenth-century Russian writer; one of the leaders and theorists of Russian liberal feminism. Ol’ga Kislaikova was born in Oranienbaum , near St Petersburg, on 10 (22) September 1850, the youngest of nine children. Her father, Andrei Petrovich Kislaikov, was a military official at the command post in Oranienbaum. Her mother, Louisa Abramovna Kislaikova (data unknown), was a gentry woman of German and Swedish origin. In 1865, Ol’ga Kislaikova completed the Alexandrovskaia gymnasia (high school) in St Petersburg, receiving a gold medal for her outstanding academic achievements. Like many educated young women in the 1860s and 1870s, Kislaikova became acquainted with writers and journalists and attended public lectures, including the Vladimirskie Courses (these free courses were one of Russia’s first educational initiatives on behalf of women). Although her family supported her, Kislaikova wanted to earn her own living. She translated various articles from German and French into Russian and wrote short news bulletins from St Petersburg for the newspapers Birzhevye Vedomosti (Stock exchange news) and Novoe Vremia (New times). In 1871, when Ol’ga Kislaikova had turned 21, she announced her independence from her family, having then been put in charge of Aleksandr Cherkesov’s Vasileostrovsky Library (Cherkesov was a well-known owner of libraries and bookstores in St Petersburg and Moscow). In 1872, she married Lazar Shapir, a former student of the Medical-Surgical Academy in St Petersburg, who had been exiled to Novgorod for his participation in the Nechaevskoe Delo (Nechaev Affair). Sergei Nechaev was the revolutionary leader of the group Narodnaia Rasprava (Popular Punishment). When the government took action against the group, Nechaev fled abroad but his followers were tried and convicted. Ol’ga Shapir managed to get permission for her husband to complete his education; in the meantime, she supported her family through her literary work. This was not typical behavior for a woman of her class, but characteristic of Ol’ga Shapir. Throughout her life, she would challenge norms and stereotypes. 504 After graduating from the Surgical Academy in St Petersburg in 1874, Ol’ga Shapir’s husband became a provincial doctor in the Saratov guberniia (region). While residing there, Ol’ga Shapir turned her attention to writing fiction. Her first novel, Na poroge zhizni (On the threshold of life), was published in 1879. Her themes—relations between men and women, the psychological suppression of women and the aspirations of downtrodden people—resonated with the intelligentsia. In the 1880s and 1890s, Ol’ga Shapir became a popular and fashionable writer. Everything she wrote was published in magazines and books. After having returned to St Petersburg in 1881 with her only son Nikolai, she immediately became involved in the work of the Literaturnyi Fond (Literary Fund) to support other writers (both men and women) and develop women’s activities. In 1895, she joined the newly created Russkoe Zhenskoe Vzaimno-Blagotvoritel’noe Obshchestvo (Russian Women’s Mutual Philanthropic Society). She served at various times as manager of its Commission on Fundraising and of its Otdel referatov (Department of Abstracts), as well as serving as a member of the governing Council which, in the early stages of the Society, defined and shaped organizational policy. The Department of Abstracts was the theoretical arm of the Russkoe Zhenskoe Vzaimno-Blagotvoritel’noe Obshchestvo and members presented their research on women’s issues at sessions convened by the Department. Ol’ga Shapir regarded the Russkoe Zhenskoe Vzaimno-Blagotvoritel’noe Obshchestvo as a ‘women’s club’ (in the fashion of the traditional ‘men’s club’), gathering women with similar views, discussing women’s problems and developing strategies for the organization and for the women’s movement as a whole. She opposed the Russkoe Zhenskoe Vzaimno-Blagotvoritel’noe Obshchestvo’s involvement in charitable works, preferring instead to promote a political agenda. Rivalry existed between Shapir and Anna Shabanova, one of the women who had established the Russkoe Zhenskoe Vzaimno-Blagotvoritel’noe Obshchestvo in 1895, and who had served as the organization’s Chair since its inception. Shabanova was an administrative leader, whereas Shapir was a charismatic and respected intellectual leader. After voicing her objections to the philanthropic role undertaken by the Russkoe Zhenskoe Vzaimno-Blagotvoritel’noe Obshchestvo, Shapir resigned from the organization’s Council but continued to work for its Suffrage Department, which was then making preparations for the First All-Russian Women’s Congress. In 1905, Shapir also joined the Soiuz Ravnopraviia Zhenshchin (Women’s Equal Rights Union, 1905–1907...


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