Inessa Armand was the first Director of the Women's Section of the Russian Communist Party (the Zhenotdel). She was one of the most important women in the pre-revolutionary Bolshevik Party, and second only to Aleksandra Kollontai in the ranks of early Soviet feminists. Yet if Armand is mentioned at all in Western literature, it is solely as Lenin's protegee and probable mistress. In this political biography of Armand, the first to appear in English, Professor R. C. Elwood seeks to correct this picture by portraying her as an accomplished revolutionary propagandist and Bolshevik organizer before 1917 and as a feminist who devoted much of her life to defending women's interests in the home, in the workplace and in society. Based on unpublished police reports, memoirs.
Armand's letters to her five children and two husbands, and Lenin's 118 published letters to her, this study provides new and revealing information on her upbringing in the wealthy Armand family, on the revolutionary sympathies of many members of that family, on their subsequent and controversial financial support of the Bolshevik Party, and on her career as a Tolstoyan and feminist long before she became a revolutionary.
Elwood's scholarship is...scrupulous...he makes important dicoveries through close comparison of variant editions of texts." Journal of Modern History "...Armand's story--now retold in Inessa Armand: Revolutionary and Feminist, by R.C. Elwood, a professor of history at Carleton University in Canada--is an interesting one, not only as an account of her own life and her connection with Lenin, but also because of the light it throws on prerevolutionary Russian society and on the origins of Communism...We must be grateful to Mr. Elwood for his fastidious scholarship, for the ease with which he moves amid the complex politics of the Russian revolutionary movement and for his most readable book." Adam B. Ulam, The New York Times "...this biography performs an important service in making visible the career of a woman whose life symbolized the interweaving of the personal and political. Such a biography could not be more timely today, when in Russia revolutionary ideals have been consigned to the ashheap of history, but the kind of social conditions usually associated with Tsarist times have reappeared...For those seeking a new path beyond the capitalist cynicism of the present and the revolutionary hypocrisy of the past, Elwood's biography of Inessa Armand helps light the way." Rochelle Ruthchild, The Women's Review of Books "Elwood's carefully researched and detailed political history, written from the viewpoint of female Bolsheviks who worked among women, is a valuable addition to both women's and Soviet studies." Beatrice Farnsworth, American Historical Review "This is a book for specialists but it was the specialists, after all, who for many years were only interested in female bolsheviks if they had had sexual adventures or had rendered loyal service to men. Elwood moves beyond this trivializing approach and by doing so paints a truer picture of the revolutionaries." Slavic Review "...Elwood has done a splendid job bringing Inessa Armand back to history. As in his earlier work, Elwood demonstrates his skills as a master researcher and source detective...this well-crafted, interesting, and respectful book will serve as the standard biography of Armand for some time to come." Lynne Viola, The Historian "This meticulous, thoughtful biography draws on police reports, memoirs and Armand's and Lenin's published letters, as well as a wide range of secondary literature to retrieve Armand from Lenin's shadow and to fill in the details of her life." The Russian Review "Professor R.C. Elwood of Carleton Uniersity has written a magnum opus, the story of Armand's life and work...The book will be of great interest to students of Russian history and women's history." T. Yedlin, Canadian Slavonic Papers