OCTOBER 11, 1958
HYDE PARK —I want to tell you, before concluding these articles on the Soviet Union, of the interview I had with Mme. Yekaterina A. Furtseva. Politically speaking, she is, I suppose, the highest-ranking woman in the U.S.S.R.
When I asked to see Mme. Furtseva, who as a member of the Supreme Soviet must carry a good deal of weight within the Communist Party, I was immediately asked to submit the subjects I wished to talk about.
I replied that I wanted to talk about the comparative status of women in the Soviet Union and in the United States, the conditions of women and children from the social service point of view, and the economic viewpoint of the Russian woman.
I led right off with a question on the change Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev had advocated recently in the status of Soviet women. As I understood it, Mr. Khrushchev said that he had not found true equality in the accepted arrangement by which women could enter any line of work, working just as hard as men and attaining high positions on the same level of men.
Since working married women had a double job in also keeping up their homes, he said, they were doing more work than men who held jobs outside the home.
Almost any of us could have told Mr. Khrushchev this long ago, but I did not mention it. Mme. Furtseva promptly said that, of course, the influence of women in positions of government called attention to the conditions of working women and affected men's point of view as well as legislation affecting women.
I did not discover until later that Mr. Khrushchev, in addition to ruling out heavy labor for women, also had proposed a change in the working conditions for young people.
His proposal, as I understand it, was that all young people work at least two years in a factory before going on to higher education. This probably would make up for the loss of labor by taking women off certain jobs.
It probably will be pointed out that this will impress young people with the value of work, giving it equal importance in their minds to intellectual occupations.
In the Soviet Union, Mme. Furtseva told me, many young women are in the legislative branch of government, citing the case of a 19-year-old girl from a rural area.
I at once asked if this girl was the one who raised the remarkable cows that I had seen a year ago at the agricultural exhibition. These cows had been admired for their quantity and quality of milk production
I asked Mme. Furtseva whether she thought that a girl of 19 was mature enough to be of real value in the legislative branch of government. She responded that people of this age could learn from the older, more experienced persons there and could contribute their particular point of view to the thinking of legislative government.
This, of course, is appreciated in the business world of this country, as well as in politics.
I myself have a theory that when changes need to come in political practices, the youth of our country must bring them about. Older people are unlikely to do this, because it takes organization and patience to win out in politics over accepted habits and attitudes. The position of the elders might actually be described as acceptance without question.
Women of this country—and perhaps the men—will be interested to know that Mme. Furtseva was dressed with simplicity but great elegance.
Her dress was well cut. Her figure was trim. She had charm and poise, and any of our own women legislators would have had trouble finding fault with her appearance.
She had a special interpreter at our interview who handled the press relations for the committee on cultural exchanges with foreign countries. I really would have liked to have an off-the-record, honest talk on a wide range of subjects with this important woman.
This ends my report on further observations and experiences on this last trip to Russia. I feel that all possible contacts between people of this country and those of the Soviet Union should be encouraged, and I would like to see more Russian citizens visiting in the U.S.
(Copyright, 1958, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 11, 1958
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007
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