Articles by

Julia Mead

Julia Mead is a history PhD student at the University of Chicago. Her writing has appeared in the Nation, New York Magazine, and elsewhere.

What Has Socialism Ever Done for Women?

The historical experiences of state socialism in twentieth-century Eastern Europe have been vilified by the conservative right and largely rejected or ignored by the progressive, new left. Especially in the United States — with its long legacy of anticommunist hysteria — scholars and activists are hesitant to embark on critical reevaluations of the state-socialist past for fear of being labeled as “useful idiots” or apologists for authoritarianism. But present-day feminists can learn a great deal from the twentieth-century experiments with “really existing socialism.” Although the state-socialist countries of Eastern Europe never lived up to their rhetoric of full women’s emancipation, they integrated women into the labor force much earlier and at much higher rates than their counterparts in the West. The successes on these fronts leave a rich legacy upon which to build.