Suffragists and Russian Suffering:

Maria Katharina Wiedlack

This article analyzes American pro-Russian revolutionary newspaper and magazine
articles, biographies, political speeches, poems, etc. between roughly 1880 and
1917. It asks what strategies American social progressives, including suffragists and
feminists, developed to create empathy for the Russian revolutionaries, and the
Russian people more generally, at a time when the American authorities, as well as
the public, was rather anxious about foreign and domestic radicalism. The article
identifies suffering Russian women at the center of narratives that intended to
create sympathy for the Russian Revolution. Particularly vulnerable female bodies
were used as veneers to draw the American audience and the world into supporting
the revolution. The article approaches the topic of vulnerability through the work of
literary scholar Thomas Laqueur, and specifically his analyses of suffering as a literary
trope, to explore the narratives’ particular structures and the kinds of Russian
vulnerabilities that the writers presented. It analyzes the affective attachments to
the bodies at the center of these narratives, and the subsequent imaginaries they
inspire, thereby crucially influencing American cultural and political imaginaries as
such through the application of Laqueur’s ideas. Additionally, the analysis will focus
on the question why suffragists and feminists were so particularly invested in
the creation and dissemination of these humanitarian narratives, suggesting that
the support of Russian revolutionary women was as much in solidarity with the
Russians as it was a means to further their own causes and ideas, including women’s

Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Journal of the Austrian Association for American Studies (JAAAS)
ÖFOS 2012
601028 Geschlechtergeschichte, 602005 Amerikanistik
ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete
Literature and Literary Theory, History, Gender studies, Philosophy
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