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History of Communism in Europe

Volume 8, 2017

The Other Half of Communism: Women's Outlook

Jan A. Burek
Pages 167-188
DOI: 10.5840/hce201788

From Party Leaders to Social Outcasts
Women’s Political Activism during the Establishment of Communist Power in a Polish Industrial Town (Żyrardów, 1945-1948)

The author presents the changing role of women and of the attitudes towards them in the PWP (the Polish Workers’ Party) and the PSP (the Polish Socialist Party) in a midsize industrial town in Central Poland in the years 1945-1948. During the war, women of the PWP were promoted to the highest positions in the party structures, however, due to the quick reaffirmation of gender roles in the post-1945 period, they were relegated to lower posts. Their political influence was thereafter limited solely to the care sector which was considered their natural domain. In turn, the PSP gained importance in the post-war period only after A. Tomaszewska, a woman and an influential prewar labour organizer, took charge of it in 1946. Under her leadership, the Socialists renewed their ties with women workers of the town’s main textile factory and challenged the Communist party.