Panel: New States – new women and families? Self-empowerment of Women and Perceptions of Families in the Baltic States since 1918

Startdatum: 27. Mai 2022
Enddatum: 29. Mai 2022
Uhrzeit: 0:00 - 0:00
Vortrag

AABS 2022 in Seattle

The 28th Biennial AABS Conference “Baltic Studies at a Crossroads”, May 27–29, 2022

New States – new women and families? Self-empowerment of Women and Perceptions of Families in the Baltic States since 1918

Families perceived as the smallest societal entity (and hence of the state). Already in the late Russian Empire, changing family values could be observed as well as women’s first steps of self-empowerment. After the founding of the states after the collapse of Russian Empire, national states emerged which at to integrate different ethnic and denominational groups. The annexation of the Baltic States through the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Eastern Bloc implied the adoption of Soviet societal order and hence the paradigm of „women’s liberation for the buildup of Socialism“, so that women’s empowerment was only within the societal order.

One premise of the panel is, that family values and female self-empowerment were interrelated and gained momentum through revolution, democratization and national state building. Several further influences like population policy debates, eugenic and racist theories had influence on family values as well as on gender roles. On the more individual and societal level, the „new woman“ represented throughout Europe the dawn of democratic modernity. Women’s movement as well as democratization led to self-empowerment and claims for societal, political and economic participation in the Baltic States. Herewith following discourses on traditional social orders such as marriage and the „obligation to give birth“ challenged the power-related attitudes towards families. Particularly, the attitudes towards families in general and to birth control in particular were politized and influenced by societal, political and socio-economic modernization processes. Moreover, since the Sovietization the Soviet family model was pushed.

The panel wants to discuss which impact the nation building and „building of socialist society“ in the Baltic sea region had. Why and how did family values change? Taking into account that the Baltic States‘ population was multi-ethnic, the panel will discuss which influence on family values and changing perception of women’s role had these transformations. Which influence had e.g. nationalities‘ conflicts on these transformations? Can we observe minority-majority related particular discourses and perceptions? Furthermore, the panel will discuss questions related to birth control since they reflect growing female self-consciousness, family values and how the „new“ society should look like.

Presentations:
Elke Bauer (Marburg): Chair and introduction
Leena Kurvet-Köosaar (Tartu): The Dynamics of Family Values in Estonian Women’s Life Stories
Ineta Lipša (Riga): „Between men’s parties and women’s lists“: Self-empowerment of women through running for MP office in Latvia, 1920-1934n:
Eva Eglāja-Kristsone (Riga): Opportunities and limitations of female self-affirmation: case of the Grosvalds family
Ieva Balčiūnė (Vilnius): Beating means love: domestic violence and birth control in Soviet Lithuania
Heidi Hein-Kircher (Marburg): New States – New Women and Families? A Comment (10 min.)

Abstracts of Presentations

Leena Kurvet-Käosaar (Tartu): The Dynamics of Family Values in Estonian Women’s Life Stories

The large-scale life story initiatives of the late 1980s and early 1990s laid the foundation for the life story archive of the Estonian Literary Museum that today holds over four thousand life narratives that have accumulated both via individual donations and as the result of over twenty calls for submitting life narratives focusing on different topics and historical periods. This effort has been instrumental in the creation and advancement of a grassroots-level life writing culture in Estonia based on a belief in the unique value of every(body’s) life story for enriching and diversifying perceptions of culture and history.

The current presentation is based on a selection of women’s life stories that accumulated as a result of three life story calls: “Women’s Voices” (1995, total of 30 life narratives), “My Destiny and That of my Loved Ones in the Whirlwind of History” (1996, total of 262 life narratives), “My Life and that of My Family in Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic” (2000, total of 330 life stories) and “My Life and Love” (2015., celebrating Estonia’s centenary, total of 193 life stories). Focus will be on the ways in which family values are represented and discussed in the life stories, how they support of confront with other values and aims of women’s lives as well as the ways in which these values could be realized in life. Closer attention will be paid on values that are represented in the life stories as natural(ized) for the authors and those that are viewed as being promoted by the Soviet regime. An important aspect of inquiry is the concept of the family and family configurations (e.g., single parent family, extended family) that appear in the life stories.

Ineta Lipša (Riga): „Between men’s parties and women’s lists“: Self-empowerment of women through running for MP office in Latvia, 1920-1934

The paper aims to analyse the demands and values ​​of politically active women who ran from women’s parties and women’s candidate lists, included in their parliamentary election programs. The paper will reveal the perceptions of families and gender roles they aimed to achieve and how failed election results became an ever-increasing impetus in the process of their self-empowerment. In Latvia, female self-empowerment gained momentum through the February revolution of 1917, democratization, and national state-building during the 1920s-1930s. Politically active women claimed societal, political, and economic participation in the new Nation-state. However, in the realm of politics, they failed.  Six female MPs (out of 152) worked in the 1920 Constitutional Assembly. However, the results of the 1922 Saeima elections shocked not only politically active women but even surprised experienced politicians. No women were elected to the parliament. None female MPs were elected in the 1925 and 1928 Saeima elections either. Only in the 1931 elections did a female MP succeed from the Democratic Centre party. Politically active women used various tactics to elect women to parliament. The organizing of election lists of women candidates only was among them.

Eva Eglāja-Kristsone (Riga): Opportunities and limitations of female self-affirmation: case of the Grosvalds family

The idea of the presentation is to reveal new roles and growing self-esteem of women through a case study of the Grosvalds family. In 1919 almost all family members (including three women)  engaged in a just established Latvian foreign service in several European countries and through their autobiographical testimonies and narratives the gender imbalance and changing patriarchal family model will be analyzed.

Ieva Balčiūnė (Vilnius): Beating Means Love: Domestic Violence and Birth Control in Soviet Lithuania

“My husband and his mother beat me and shouted: have an abortion, if not – we will do it for you!” – a woman complained to the editors of The Soviet Woman magazine in 1969. It is still unknown how widespread were violent family relations in Soviet Lithuania, however it is a public secret that domestic violence was “normalized” to the extent that it almost became a part of normal family life. Cases of domestic violence were rarely investigated, offenders usually escaped punishment and the problem (in the light of prevalent propaganda about women’s rights) was either suppressed or reflected non objectively. Simultaneously the number of both professional and selfinduced abortions increased. My research based on the analysis of archival documents reveals the correlation of wide-spread violence, toxic family relationships with the rates and methods of birth control in Soviet Lithuania.