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History of Communism in Europe

Volume 8, 2017

The Other Half of Communism: Women's Outlook

Łukasz Bertram
Pages 121-146
DOI: 10.5840/hce201786

Widows of the Revolution
Women in Polish Political Elite 1949–1956

The aim of this article is to present the collective portrait of the 40 women occupying the highest posts in the communist party and state apparatus in Poland during the Stalinist period. It focuses on the vast majority of people involved in the communist movement, while it also examines the cases of Socialists and women from the younger generation. The first part of the study presents the milieus they came from, their educational and professional careers and – above all – the motivations and patterns of their political engagement. The second part engages with their position in the structures of power, as well as the circumstances of their political advances and declines. The key biographical category is that of “widowhood”, understood both literally – considering the percentage of women whose husbands were killed by Soviets or Germans – and symbolically – as a bitter disappointment with the Idea and its realization.