Women and Children in the Soviet Union, 1961

215 pages. Over 300 photos.

Alice and Harvey Richards photo by Imogen Cunningham. Contributors to Ordinary Life in the USSR book.
1953, Alice and Harvey Richards. Photo by Imogen Cunningham

Print book ISBN 978-1-7344042-0-3

eBook ISBN 978-1-7344042-1-0

Library of Congress Control Number: 2020902539

Ordinary Life in the USSR 1961 book tells the story of Harvey and Alice Richards amazing trip to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1961. Their goal was to document the social safety network that existed in the Soviet Union for women and children in a socialist society. Alice Richards’ script tells the story of our journey as she narrated the films “A Visit to the Soviet Union, Part 1: Women of Russia” and “A Visit to the Soviet Union, Part 2: Far from Moscow”. Her script is presented here as the text of the book along with Harvey Richardsphotography of the USSR during the Cold War. I added subheadings and captions (in italics) to the photos as needed.

Ordinary Life in the USSR Book

The book follows the films as closely as possible adding many previously unpublished still images taken during the filming and many screen grabs from the films. The resulting book reveals the achievements of the USSR in creating a social safety network for women and children. Alice led our efforts in meeting and filming in a variety of settings including work places, maternity wards, schools, universities, homes and child care institutions, and even a fashion show. We spent most of our time in Moscow but also visited Sochi on the Black Sea coast, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and Irkutsk in Siberia.

Two documentary films and hundreds of images preserved in the Harvey Richards Media Archive, and presented in this book, are a portrait of the Soviet Union at a time in history 15 years after the end of World War II. Every adult in these photos had experienced the cataclysmic events of the war. Millions of their contemporaries had died in the fight to destroy fascism and defeat Nazi Germany. Millions of homes had been destroyed during the invasion and bombings leaving twenty five million homeless. There were 20 million more women than men in the post war world of the USSR which, in 1961, was still in the midst of rebuilding itself anew after all of the destruction and death of World War II.

History of Care and Prosperity for Women and Children

Now, in 2022, decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the history of care and relative prosperity experienced by women and children during the Soviet period is a lasting legacy in the world still struggling to achieve equality and justice for women. Our trip occurred at the height of the cold war when visiting the Soviet Union was rare for Americans. Alice and Harvey’s purpose was to contribute to the peace movement by offering positive images and information documenting the remarkable advances achieved in the conditions of women and children in a socialist society.
When we returned to California, Harvey and Alice edited and released the two films. The films were then projected for small groups locally in the San Francisco area interested in helping to build friendly public opinion about the the USSR to counter Cold War hostility.
Between 1965 and 2011 the films went into storage. As part of creating the Harvey Richards Media Archive web site in 2011, I digitized the films and extracted short clips from each film which I put up on YouTube as previews. I entitled the clips from the Soviet films “Ordinary Life in the USSR, 1961.” As of January, 2022 over one million viewers have visited my YouTube channel, including over 682,000 views of the “Ordinary Life in the USSR 1961” clip alone. Viewers have come from 120 countries. This amazing response to the video has motivated the publication of this book.
Now, years after both Harvey and Alice’s deaths, these films have experienced a renaissance and will hopefully contribute to the global struggles to create social networks of support for women and children everywhere. Creating and maintaining a social safety net for women in all societies is a necessary step along this road.

Critical Focus Series

Ordinary Life in the USSR is volume one in the Critical Focus Series forthcoming from Estuary Press. The Series arises out of the 1986 publication of Critical Focus: The Black and White Photographs of Harvey Wilson Richards. At that time, I had just received the boxes of photos and films that my father had accumulated over decades of photographic and film work dating from the 1950’s to 1978. The images included in the pre-computer age 1986 edition of Critical Focus came from prints that he had developed in his darkroom to use supporting the struggles he filmed. Now, these analog images are part of the larger digital collection of thousands of images and twenty two films available on the Harvey Richards Media Archive web site (https://bit.ly/3ftXrmU). The Critical Focus Series’ purpose is to bring the larger digital collection in the Archive to the public.
Critical Focus Series will present many images which have never been published before. The Series will feature five main subjects: Peace, Civil Rights, California Farm Workers, Environment, and the Soviet Union. Each volume will be available in paperback and eBook formats. The eBook format volumes include links to wider sources of information on each subject now available digitally.

Below are the main photo image galleries available in the Harvey Richards Media Archive (https://bit.ly/3meoMNF):
Harvey Richards Photo Image Galleries
Farm Worker Images: 10 galleries.
Civil Rights Images: 4 galleries.
Peace Movement Images: 14 galleries.
Environmental Images: 8 galleries.
Soviet Union Images: 5 galleries.

ORDINARY LIFE IN THE USSR beautifully captures a world now seemingly lost even to memory. Here we see in the most vivid ways possible the advance of women from Russia proper to the distant regions of the USSR. It is inspiring to glimpse, and should raise hopes for another turn in the wheel of history.

Paul Buhle
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